November 12, 2023 

Big Ten roundup: Caitlin Clark outduels Georgia Amoore, Northwestern survives a scare and more

Recapping the first week of Big Ten action

Iowa passed its first test of Caitlin Clark’s senior season, Robyn Fralick and Dawn Plitzuweit won their first games as Big Ten head coaches and Penn State’s offense averaged 100.5 points per game during the first week of women’s college basketball action.

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This weekly column looks to highlight key performances and outcomes from across the Big Ten, from the teams that are oft-covered to those that might fly under the radar. Here is the inaugural rendition of the Big Ten roundup:

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What everybody’s talking about

Caitlin Clark vs. Georgia Amoore mostly lived up to the hype. The choppy pace of the game early on served as a reminder that this was just the second game of the season and that, with two new starters, Iowa’s offense shouldn’t be expected to operate at warp speed right away.

But in spite of it all, Clark dropped 44 points on 13-for-31 shooting, adding eight rebounds, six assists and — perhaps most notably — just one turnover. But that wasn’t the end of the week for Clark, who went on to land the top spot on the Hawkeyes’ all-time scoring list after a 24-point outing against UNI on Sunday.

Sydney Affolter, the 5’11 junior guard for the Hawkeyes, stood out as well with 14 rebounds, leading the way for Iowa. With Monika Czinano graduated, Hannah Stuelke will likely receive most of the playing time in the post for Iowa; Stuelke had 12 points and four boards in Thursday’s match. As for the Hokies, Georgia Amoore scored 31 points, while Elizabeth Kitley added a 16-point, 16-rebound double-double.

Iowa’s 80–76 win was in no way a pristine performance, with the team shooting just 6-of-26 from 3-point range. But this early in the season, it should give a confidence boost to a program that will require some new faces to step up this season, if the Hawkeyes want another crack at a national championship.

“I feel like this is a really good early season win for us,” head coach Lisa Bluder said on Thursday. “We shot the ball so poorly, and it’s so uncharacteristic of us to shoot that poorly, but we got to the free throw line, and we did a good job on the boards.”

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This caught my attention…

With several marquee matchups this week, Northwestern–UIC probably didn’t jump to the top of anyone’s viewing list. Still, the Wildcats escaped an early-season scare with a 92–86 win in overtime after trailing 44–30 at the half.

Combing through the box score, several things jumped out: first, if Northwestern wants to rebound from last year’s last-place Big Ten finish, Caroline Lau, Caileigh Walsh and Paige Mott need to have big seasons. The fact that all three had double-doubles provides some reason for optimism.

Somewhat concerning, though, is that head coach Joe McKeown only gave six players significant playing time in a game that should’ve been an opportunity to test out his bench. Maggie Pina, who McKeown believes will substantially improve the team’s shooting, didn’t attempt a shot in just four minutes on the floor.

UIC does deserve some credit. Second-year head coach Ashleen Bracey took the program from 16 wins combined in the five years before she took over to a 19-win season last year, so this wasn’t a pushover opponent. But the fact that McKeown had to push four of his starters over 35 minutes in the first game of the season suggests that depth could once again be an issue for the Wildcats.

Northwestern guard Caroline Lau (2) goes for a layup just under the basket during a game against UIC. Other players from both teams surround the paint as Lau extends her right arm for the shot.
Northwestern guard Caroline Lau (2) goes for a layup during a game against UIC on Nov. 9, 2023. (Photo credit: Mary Grace Grabill/Northwestern Athletics)

Other notable headlines

Penn State’s new-look offense showing positive signs early:

Albeit against Bucknell and Navy, the Nittany Lions’ offense fired on all cylinders this week. Shay Ciezki picked up where she left off last year, averaging 17.5 points across the two wins this week, while transfer Kylie Lavelle and redshirt freshman Moriah Murray both averaged in double figures as well. Penn State’s depth of scoring looks to be the program’s main strength this season.

Makira Cook misses Illinois’ first two games:

Illinois has the chance to surprise people yet again this season and compete at the top of the Big Ten, but the Illini were forced to play their first two games this year without their star point guard and leading scorer from last season. After beating Morehead State on Tuesday, head coach Shauna Green described Cook as day-to-day. Illinois subsequently lost to Marquette on Saturday, 71-67, with Cook’s continued absence looming large.

While Green obviously wants her best player on the floor, other players have stepped up. Genesis Bryant turned in a career-best scoring performance against Morehead State (32 points) and Camille Hobby scoring 18 points and added seven rebounds in the Marquette loss.

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Maryland and Indiana humbled on the road:

For all the talk about the Big Ten having five teams in the top 25, both Maryland and Indiana were humbled a bit on Sunday. The Terps hung with South Carolina for the first 17 minutes or so but ultimately lost handily, 114–76. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers were boat raced from the opening tip at Stanford, taking a 96–64 loss on the road.

More than anything, these losses aren’t five-alarm fires for either team; rather, they were indicators that A) South Carolina and Stanford are probably better than the sixth- and 15th-best teams in the country as the AP Poll suggested and B) It’s going to take time for Maryland to adjust to losing Diamond Miller and for Indiana to adjust to losing Grace Berger. Both teams have immense talent, no doubt, and it’s still only week one. There’s lots of basketball still to be played and lots of work still to do for two teams that have Big Ten championship aspirations.

Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel

Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

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