March 28, 2023
Iowa advances to Final Four, Ohio State and Maryland bow out in the Elite Eight
The Hawkeyes are headed to their first Final Four since 1993
Four teams remain.
Three of the four could’ve been Big Ten teams, but instead, Iowa will be the conference’s lone representative in the Final Four this year — still an impressive feat since no Big Ten team has reached the Final Four since Maryland in 2015.
The Hawkeyes took down Colorado on Friday and Louisville on Sunday to keep their dream season alive. Meanwhile, the Terps beat Notre Dame before losing to the top overall seed, South Carolina, on Monday. Ohio State was dealt a similar blow on Monday, losing to Virginia Tech on the heels of its impressive victory over UConn on Saturday.
Here are three takeaways from the Big Ten’s performances during the tournament’s second weekend:
Anyone who’s watched the Iowa guard play before shouldn’t have been surprised by her 41-point triple-double performance in Sunday’s 97-83 win over Louisville. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the most impressive performances in college basketball history on a stage of this magnitude.
The biggest reason for skepticism of Iowa making a deep run in March came back to defense and the ability of players not named Clark to score. The latter has arguably keyed this Final Four run more than the former, with the abilities of McKenna Warnock, Kate Martin and Gabbie Marshall to work in tandem with the inside-out game of Clark and Monika Czinano shining through.
In fact, Sunday’s game was the 90th time the Hawkeyes’ five starters played together.
“Wow, that’s a lot of games,” Czinano said Sunday in response to that statistic. “It means a lot, especially for all five of us. We’ve been working on our games collectively as a starting five for so long, working on our relationships with each other, just everything.
But even more so off the court, I’m so thankful for every single person, not just the starting five. Everybody on our team deserves this. Everybody puts in the work. So there’s no other group I would rather go 90 games with, truly.”
The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom
The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Still, Clark unquestionably stole the show on Sunday night with 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. But it wasn’t just the gaudy numbers themselves; it was how central she was to the success of her teammates.
In addition to her 41 points, Clark assisted on an astounding 70.6% of the Hawkeyes’ other made field goal attempts — that’s the fourth-best mark of her career (two of those better performances were in non-conference games against Evansville).
It’s one thing to have a standout individual performance — like Clark’s had in the past — that doesn’t translate to wins; it’s another to have this level of performance and facilitate the success of so many other players.
“I’m so happy for Caitlin,” head coach Lisa Bluder said Sunday. “I can remember sitting in her living room and her saying, ‘I want to go to a Final Four.’ And I’m saying, ‘We can do it together.’ And she believed me. I’m very thankful for that. She is spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court. A 40-point triple-double against Louisville to go to the Final Four? Are you kidding? It’s mind-boggling.”
Rebounding and foul trouble end Maryland’s impressive run
Obviously, it’s no accident that South Carolina is now 36-0. But the Terps looked like they had a shot early on Monday night when they jumped out to a 21-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Maryland needed a career-performance from Diamond Miller and likely something similar from Shyanne Sellers and Abby Meyers, and that didn’t quite materialize. Miller and Sellers both sat for much of the second quarter with two fouls each, during which the Gamecocks outscored the Terps 23-9.
“You felt like you were coaching with one arm behind your back,” head coach Brenda Frese said of that second quarter. “When they were calling so many [fouls], you were kind of just juggling who you had on the bench and back and forth, and it kind of felt like that all game. You’re just trying to see who you could keep in the longest.”
The foul trouble certainly played a big role in Maryland’s 86-75 loss, but so did the battle on the boards. Not only did South Carolina win the rebounding battle, 48-26, the Gamecocks secured 25 offensive rebounds, compared to Maryland’s seven.
“I’m going to tip my hat to them,” Maryland forward Diamond Miller said. “I usually don’t do that, but they’re big, and I think what was our downfall was just how big they were in the post.”
Miller led the Terps with 24 points in likely her final game wearing the Maryland uniform. Meyers had 14 in her college basketball finale.
Despite the undesirable outcome, the fact Maryland made it this far, to begin with, was a feat in itself. Replacing 85% of your offense from the previous year with nine new players poses innumerable challenges.
Through it all, Frese made it work.
“Just really incredibly proud, and I think it shows a group of women in the locker room what can be accomplished when you’re unselfish and you put your head down and you go to work,” she said. “It was such a satisfying season, just with so many question marks going into the year. But because these guys believed and stayed the course, you were able to see some pretty magical things.”
Kevin McGuff’s press runs out of gas
Ohio State expended a lot of energy defending UConn in Saturday’s 73-61 Sweet 16 win, forcing 25 turnovers.
The full-court press didn’t work as well against Virginia Tech on Monday — an 84-74 loss — in large part due to the quickness of Hokies guard Georgia Amoore.
Talk women’s college basketball with the staff at The Next!
Twice a week, we will have writers taking your questions live on Playback in our new town hall series! We’ve picked a daytime and a nighttime slot to hopefully reach as many of you as possible. Mark your calendars and bring your questions about women’s college basketball.
Tuesdays at noon EST with Howard Megdal
Fridays at 8 p.m. EST with Matthew Walter
“She’s tough to keep in front, and she can kind of split it and get it up the court,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “I felt like we were a little tired coming into it too. We had put so much energy into Saturday’s game, and we didn’t have quite the same energy in the press. When you don’t have it, it’s tough because you can really get beat up on the back end and give up easy baskets.”
Virginia Tech turned it over 13 times compared to Ohio State’s 10. The plus-3 margin wasn’t enough of a differential for the Buckeyes to overcome cold shooting in the second half. The Hokies, led by Amoore and Elizabeth Kitley, proved too much for the Buckeyes to slow down, ending their best season in three decades.
“I think our best days are still ahead of us,” McGuff said. “This is a great opportunity for us to build off of this. … Hopefully, we can get back here and learn from this one a little bit because, like I said, we ran into a great team who played really well tonight. Hopefully, we can look back and say, ‘Hey, if we really lock in and execute a little bit better, then we’ll give ourselves a better chance to win.'”
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.