Hawkeyes rally past Golden Gophers

McKenna Warnock (14) races in for a lay-up during the fourth quarter of a 90-79 Big Ten Conference win for the Iowa women's basketball team over Minnesota on Wednesday night at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

IOWA CITY – There wasn't a whole lot going right for the Iowa women's basketball team on Wednesday night in their Big Ten battle with Minnesota.

McKenna Warnock was on the bench after injuring her eye, Monika Czinano was struggling in the paint and the Golden Gophers were hitting shots from all over the floor. The result was a 16-point lead late in the first half for the visitors from Minneapolis who seemed well on their way to ending Iowa's home-court winning streak.

Fortunately for Iowa, there were two halves to play and a freshman phenom that Minnesota had yet to cool off. Caitlin Clark racked up 19 points in the first half to keep Iowa close before adding 18 more in the second half, finishing with a new career-high 37 points in her initial year for the Hawkeyes.

Clark had 12 points in the third quarter, which turned the entire game around. Iowa outscored Minnesota 30-13 in the period, erasing a double-digit deficit before pulling away in the fourth quarter to clinch a 90-79 win over the Golden Gophers, extending Iowa's winning streak at Carver Hawkeye Arena to 42 consecutive games, second in the country only to Baylor.

"I thought it was really important to get within 10 by halftime was important," Iowa head women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder said. "We had 15 assists in the second half alone. We outrebounded them by 12 in the second half. We get to the free throw line nine times. They get there two times. Shots typically come around and they came around in the second half. I thought that third quarter was a thing of beauty."

Clark added 11 rebounds to post a double-double in her latest amazing effort of her freshman season on the college hardwood. Iowa improves to 8-1 on the season with a 4-1 record in Big Ten play led by the now five-time winner of the Big Ten freshman of the week award with a sixth honor likely coming next week.

"In her four-year career, I'm going to run out of adjectives to describe her," Bluder said of Clark. "That was pretty spectacular, especially in that third quarter. When she's feeling it, those deep 3-pointers are no problem. As a coach, you can't believe it sometimes, then you forget who's taking it. She has such great confidence and I love that confidence."

Clark sank four shots from 3-point range to account for her 12 points in the third, including a game-tying shot off a fast break that tied the score at 55-55 with 5:08 left in the period. While Iowa put 30 points on the board, holding Minnesota to just 13 points on 5-18 shooting was equally as big after the Golden Gophers shot 53 percent (16-30) in the first half.

"Defensively, that's where it started for us," Clark said. "Our defense wasn't where we needed to have it in the first half. We got steals and we got rebounds which led to our fast breaks. That's what got us back in the ball game."

Czinano overcame her early struggles inside, nearly racking up her own double-double for Iowa with 19 points and nine rebounds. Warnock returned to the floor to finish with six of her nine points in the fourth quarter as Iowa built a 16-point lead of its own with 5:29 left.

"I wasn't anything too severe. It hurt initially, but they got some numbing cream for it," Warnock said of her eye injury. "The pain kind of went away after that.

"We have a philosophy all the time about the next man up. We know that, if any one of us is to go down, we know that we have the depth to make up for it," Czinano said. "It's unfortunate what happened, but we had players that could step up."

Kate Martin finished with seven points including a lay-up with 3:34 left in the third quarter that finally gave the Hawkeyes the lead for the first time in the game. Martin started and played over 29 of 40 minutes on Wednesday with a face shield on to protect her broken nose suffered in Sunday's win at Illinois.

"Knowing Kate on and off the court, that's just her personality. We know she's going work as hard as she can," Czinano said of Martin. "She broke her nose and didn't take any days off. She's the glue on our team. I'm happy to see her confidence rise with the more minutes she's been getting to play.

"She's the blue-collar person on our team. She goes in to get the rebounds and does all the dirty work. She breaks her nose in the Illinois game and wants to go back in when we're up by 30 points," Bluder added. "That's the type of mentality that kid has. She's unbelievably tough. She's a competitor, but she's also so strong physically and mentally right now."

Kadiatou Sissoko led Minnesota (2-5, 1-4 Big Ten) with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. Jasmine Powell added 18 points and six assists for the Golden Gophers while Sara Scalia scored 18.

Iowa heads to Northwestern on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Hawkeyes will seek their 43rd consecutive home win next Wednesday afternoon hosting Ohio State at 3 p.m.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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