Iowa 76, Michigan State 73

Iowa 76, Michigan State 73

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Those cloaked in Iowa gold wiggled and fidgeted as the scoreboard drama intensified, this sold-out affair unfolding much differently than expected. The long Big Ten slog tends to produce a few of these even for seasoned squads.

In swooped Caitlin Clark to make sure everyone rested easy.

Locked in a clunky offensive battle Tuesday with a Michigan State women's basketball team trending upward, No. 3 Iowa had to quickly brush away any thoughts of a masterpiece and shift to finding an escape route. Not surprisingly, that was Clark, who drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired for a 76-73 win over the Spartans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The trey was the final of Clark's game-high 40 points, as she saved the day on a final possession that looked to be going nowhere.

Just as it was last season at the Breslin Center, Tuesday's matchup featured a bunch of scrappy Spartans hunting a monumental upset. A roaring road contingent that brushed off an 8 p.m. weekday tip with ease did little to derail Michigan State in winning time and beyond.

Clark's trey with 2:32 left handed the Hawkeyes a 71-67 advantage and offered Michigan State a chance to bow out admirably, but the Spartans didn't take it. Back-to-back buckets brought Michigan State back even, and the same happened after DeeDee Hagemann countered Molly Davis two free throws for a 73-73 tie.

Clark made sure Iowa had the final say.

Trotting to the locker room in a halftime hole had to unsettling for the Hawkeyes, given how well the opening 20 minutes unfolded aside from two barren stretches.

Iowa opened up a double-digit cushion late in the first quarter and led by nine with six minutes until the break, before sputtering into intermission with similar struggles seen at the start. After landing the opening blow with an 8-0 run to start the game, Michigan State closed the half with a 9-0 surge that saw Iowa muster nothing over closing four minutes.

This squad enduring one extended drought like that is stunning enough; only then came another one barging in early in the third quarter. The Hawkeyes finished six second short of a second four-minute scoring drought and spent the entire third period chasing, until Clark decided to punctuate this one the only way she knows how.

January 2, 2024