March 27, 2024 

Caitlin Clark, Gabbie Marshall say goodbye to Carver-Hawkeye Arena

Clark: 'I'm forever grateful'

IOWA CITY, Iowa – “How about the defensive effort of Gabbie Marshall?” the announcer asked the raucous sold-out crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena after Iowa defeated West Virginia, 64-54, on Monday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

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With tears in her eyes, the fifth-year guard, playing in her last home game, waved to the fans chanting her name. For the second time the past three games, Marshall had a game-changing block late in the game to help secure the win. 

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“It was pretty similar to the one at the Big Ten Tournament [championship game against Nebraska],” Marshall told reporters after the game. “I was a little late getting over on my rotation, but it ended up working out. Both came in pretty crucial moments in both games, and I am going to do whatever the team needs me to do and work my butt off the whole game.”

With 2:12 left in the game tied at 52, Marshall blocked West Virginia guard Ja’Naiya Quinerly’s three-point shot attempt. Junior guard Sydney Affolter grabbed the ball and went down and converted an and-1 fast break, putting the Hawkeyes up for good at 55-52. 

Battling West Virginia’s stingy defense all game long, the Hawkeyes’ own defense down the stretch proved to be the difference maker in this matchup between the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds.

“This might have been our lowest field goal percentage [36.2] that we’ve ever won a game with. We found a way to win in a different way, and we won with our defense tonight,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder told reporters after the game. “We outrebounded them by seven. We valued the ball. A little bit shaky to begin with, but we valued the ball. And our defense was pretty good tonight. Everybody talks about our offense, but I think our defense was pretty good tonight.”

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A lot at stake in final home game

Even before tipoff, the nervous energy was palpable among the 14,000-plus fans gathered to watch not only Iowa’s seniors’ last home game but also a chance to advance to the next round in the Albany 2 Regional.

Crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
The sold-out crowd at  Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, formed a striped effect by wearing black or gold depending on section during the Hawkeyes’ 64-54 win over West Virginia on March 25, 2024. PHOTO CREDIT/

Knowing their assignment, the Hawkeye faithful wore either black or gold depending on their section to create a striped effect in the arena. Hawkeye football legend George Kittle, who now is an All-Pro tight end for the San Francisco 49ers, gave the crowd a pep talk while wearing his wife, Claire Till’s, Iowa basketball jersey. Women’s basketball legend Nancy Lieberman also addressed the crowd during a timeout. 

“To every player on this court, thank you for elevating the game,” Lieberman said. “I promised Caitlin Clark that I would be here and I’m here in Iowa.” 

All-American senior guard Clark blew the top off the roof when she hit a signature logo 3-pointer early in the first quarter. 

“I’ve always been one to play to the crowd; that’s just who I am. That’s kind of what I do, an entertainer in a way,” Clark told reporters after the game. “I always want to get them going. I thought our crowd was tremendous tonight. They really willed us to this victory.”

Despite being a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1992, Iowa knew getting past West Virginia would not be easy, adding to the nervous tension in the area throughout the entire game. 

“I said it earlier in the week that West Virginia was not an 8-seed. There is no way. That team is really good. Mark [Kellogg] has done a great job in his year that he’s been there, and they played really, really hard,” Bluder said after the game. “But I do think that was one of the better defensive teams we’ve seen all year. I’m so proud of our team for only having six turnovers in the second half against that pressure defense. That’s keeping your composure, especially when they tied it up.”

After losing to No. 10 seed Creighton, 64-62, as a No. 2 seed in front of a sellout home crowd her sophomore year and escaping Georgia, 74-66, last season at home in the second round, Clark took nothing for granted coming into Monday’s game. 

“To be honest, looking back on our journey last year, to me, this is one of the hardest rounds in the NCAA Tournament,” she said. “Everyone is really good. You’re expected to win. You’re on your home court. You have all the pressure in the world. They have absolutely nothing to lose to come in here and upset us. That happened my sophomore year, and last year we were in a game that was even closer than this one.”

Despite shooting just 8-for-22 from the field, Clark ended up with 32 points with five 3-pointers and 11-12 free throws, playing all but 10 seconds of the game. She also pulled down 8 rebounds 

Sophomore forward Hannah Stuekle had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Affolter, in her fifth start for the injured Molly Davis, had 13 points and 7 rebounds.

Facing West Virginia’s suffocating defense and pulling out a win was a good test for the Hawkeyes as they advance in the tournament

“There’s a lot of positives to take away from this when maybe we didn’t even play our best basketball or look as pretty,” Clark said. “That’s more fulfilling of a win for us than going out there and winning by 30 points.”

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Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) hugs Kate Martin (24) and Gabbie Marshall (24) during the Hawkeyes’ 64-54 win over West Virginia on March 25, 2024, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. PHOTO CREDIT/

‘The greatest senior class in Iowa women’s basketball history’

As the crowd chanted “thank you, seniors” after the game, the announcer introduced “the greatest senior class in Iowa women’s basketball history.”

Clark, Marshall, Martin, Davis and Sharon Goodman all received rousing ovations from the standing-room only crowd. All five were on the Final Four team last year that advanced to the program’s first national championship game in which they lost 102-85 to LSU. Their current 31-4 record is tied for most wins in program history, despite losing two key seniors last year, Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock.   

Clark, who announced her intentions before the regular season ended to enter the WNBA draft, soaked in the final moments on Iowa’s home court. 

“At the end of the game, I would have never left the court if I wasn’t forced to get off,” she said. “That was one of the reasons I made this decision of letting everybody know that I’m leaving after this year. I can have a lot of closure. I could walk off the court tonight and know this is my last game ever in this arena.”

After starting her collegiate career in 2020-21 playing in empty arenas amidst the precautions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Clark has had a historic senior year in a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena, breaking the NCAA Division I women’s basketball scoring record as well as the men’s Division I record held by “Pistol” Pete Maravich since 1970.

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The West Des Moines, Iowa, native is proud to have represented her home state during her record-breaking career.  

“I’m very grateful that I got to play in an environment that supports women’s athletics the way that they do, not only women’s basketball – and to be honest, they’ve been doing this before I ever stepped on campus. Maybe it wasn’t quite at the magnitude it is now, but these fans have shown up, and they’ll continue to show up,” she said. “They understand how good our sport is. They understand how good the sport is going. But they’ve shared in a lot of really special memories for myself in a journey that I’ve changed a lot as a person and as a basketball player over the course of my last four years.”

“I think the biggest thing is just thank you. I’m forever grateful. I hope there’s a lot of times that I can come back and be in the crowd at a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena and cheering for young girls that want to be like us.”

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) celebrates advancing to the Sweet 16 after the Hawkeyes’ 64-54 win over West Virginia on March 25, 2024, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. PHOTO CREDIT/

Iowa will face fifth-seeded Colorado at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at MVP Arena in Albany, New York. This is a rematch of last year’s Sweet 16 game in which Iowa defeated Colorado, 87-77.

Written by Angie Holmes

Angela Holmes is the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) reporter for The Next. Based in the Midwest, she also covers the Big Ten and Big 12.

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