March 4, 2024 

Sights and sounds: Inside Iowa’s historic Senior Day

Caitlin Clark sets NCAA record in last regular season home game

IOWA CITY, IOWA — The 2020-21 Iowa freshmen began their collegiate basketball careers playing in empty arenas, save for a spattering of family members and cardboard cutouts of their pets, amidst the precautions of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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On Sunday, the seniors played their final regular season game in front of the 18th consecutive sold-out crowd of around 15,000 people at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, which included the ESPN College GameDay crew, several women’s basketball legends, MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, Jake from State Farm, and hip-hop star Travis Scott

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While the atmosphere has been electric all season, Senior Day on Sunday against No. 2 Ohio State was in another stratosphere. As if the desire to avenge the Hawkeyes’ 100-92 overtime loss to the Buckeyes on Jan. 21 in Columbus wasn’t enough motivation for the boisterous crowd, superstar Caitlin Clark left no doubt it would be her last regular home game when she announced Thursday her intent to declare for the WNBA draft. Oh, and for good measure, she entered the game 18 points shy of breaking LSU’s “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s 54-year-old record of most points all-time in NCAA Division I basketball. 

ESPN’s College GameDay broadcast live from the floor during Iowa’s Senior Day on Sunday, March 3, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (PHOTO CREDIT | Brian Ray/

After a day that began hours before the noon tipoff with fans tailgating in the parking lot and lining up to get into the arena for the live College GameDay segment at 10 a.m., Clark hit two technical free throws with 0.3 seconds left in the first half, passing Maravich’s previous record of 3,667 points. By the end of the game in which Iowa won 93-83, Clark had 35 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals, leaving her with 3,685 career points and counting heading into the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.  

Breaking the all-time record with free throws may have seemed a bit anticlimactic after the dramatic logo three-pointer that put her over Kelsey Plum’s NCAA Division I women’s scoring record Feb. 15 against Michigan, but it suited her and coach Lisa Bluder just fine. 

“Honestly, I don’t care. It was cool to hear everybody start screaming,” Clark told reporters after the game. “I thought that gave us a lot of momentum going into halftime. That’s like the hardest thing to do in basketball is to make free throws with nobody at the free throw line.”

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Bluder was especially pleased that basic basketball fundamentals were on display in such a high-profile moment. 

“Those free throws are important, and she’s very, very good; she shoots our technical fouls for us,” Bluder told reporters. “Go back to fundamentals everybody, right? I’m kind of glad it wasn’t a logo three.”

While Bluder was proud of Clark for surpassing the men’s mark, she continues to be more satisfied with her star point guard breaking Lynette Woodard’s 43-year-old Division I women’s record against Minnesota last Wednesday. 

“I hope it advances women’s sports even more but to me, you don’t have to break a man’s record to be recognized,” Bluder said. “I think breaking Lynette’s record was significant. I admire Pistol Pete but at the same time I don’t want that to be the bar for women’s athletics.” 

Lynette Woodard is introduced during the Iowa-Ohio State game on Sunday, March 3, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Ray/

Woodard, who scored 3,649 points from 1977-81 at the University of Kansas when women’s basketball was still governed by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), made the trip to Iowa City from Lawrence over the weekend and was acknowledged by the crowd with a standing ovation as her long list of accomplishments was announced.

“I have never had the honor of meeting Lynette Woodard until today and it was a real privilege,” Bluder said. “She was my role model growing up – unbelievable player, first female Harlem Globetrotter, a couple Olympics. She is special and she is so graceful, and the opportunity to have her come into the locker room and to introduce her to the Hawkeyes was really meaningful.”

During a pre-game interview on the court, ESPN’s Holly Rowe asked Woodard, “Caitlin Clark would not be having this moment if it wasn’t for you. How has this attention kind of shined a light on what you did in your career?”

“I don’t think Lynette Woodard would have this moment without Caitlin Clark, so I give it right back to her,” Woodard responded.

Clark said she couldn’t have imagined becoming the all-time leading scorer when she began her career four years ago in the empty arenas.

“I’ve always been able to score the ball. But I don’t think people really understand how many amazing players have come before me and been able to score the ball and do it at such a high rate and do it for teams that are really, really good,” she said. “Just to be in the same realm of all these players that have been so successful with it, whether it’s Pete or whether it’s Kelsey Plum or Lynette Woodard. All of these people have just given so much to the game so hopefully somebody comes after me and breaks my record and I can be there supporting them.That’s what makes the game of basketball so fun.”

Meeting childhood hero Maya Moore

Another women’s basketball legend, former UConn and Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore, was also on hand, receiving much love and respect from the crowd. Clark’s favorite player growing up, Moore surprised her before the game. 

Clark first met her childhood idol when she was nine years old, giving her a hug after a Minnesota Lynx game. Sunday’s hug with Moore hit a bit differently now that Clark is the idol of so many young basketball players. 

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) reacts when she was surprised by her childhood hero Maya Moore before the game against Ohio State on Sunday, March 3, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Ray/

“I think they both kind of have a different magnitude,” she said of the two meetings. “I was just a young girl. I loved women’s basketball because of her and how good the Lynx were, and obviously a lot of other people as well, but I wanted to be just like her. I thought I was gonna go to UConn when I was growing up but obviously that’s not what happened. For her to be here and surprise me was pretty special. I felt like I was that young girl again. It’s crazy how life can come full circle. I think more than anything that she’s just such a great role model, a great person, not only a great basketball player.”

During an in-game introduction, Hawkeye sports host Laura VandeBerg asked Moore what it is like watching women’s basketball grow, knowing that she was such an inspiration to Clark and other girls. 

“I was just able to be a part,” Moore said. “The thing we’ve been saying along is, ‘just give us a chance to be seen and you’re going to like what you see.’” 

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A special Senior Day

After the game, five departing seniors were honored in a ceremony emceed by Rowe. While Clark has received the most attention and accolades over the past four years, she fully admits she couldn’t have accomplished anything without her teammates and, most importantly, her good friends.

“This is what’s so fun and so special. This is what we built here,” Clark said after the game. “These are the moments you dream of and obviously our fans were incredible. It kind of feels like you’re living in a little bit of delusion, because this is just so awesome and to celebrate our seniors – four other people that have meant so much to me and given so much to this program.”

The sold-out crowd, who all remained in their seats for the ceremony, showed their appreciation for each of them, including:

Sharon Goodman, who lost her mother to cancer during her senior year of high school in Lime Springs, Iowa, and then battled injuries her first couple of years as a Hawkeye. 

Kate Martin, who attended Iowa women’s basketball camps as a young girl with her aunt, associate head coach Jan Jensen, and became the team’s undoubted leader. 

Gabbie Marshall, who helped lead the team to its first national championship game in 2023 and was recognized Sunday for scoring her 1,000th point. 

Molly Davis, who transferred to Iowa last season from Central Michigan and became a starter this season and one of the fans’ most beloved players

Davis went down with a right knee injury in the first half of the game and was carried off the court as the crowd chanted her name. She was wheeled back on to the court in a wheelchair by her parents for the post-game Senior Day ceremony. 

At 5’7, Davis has always been an underdog who accepts a challenge. 

“You don’t have to be the biggest … tallest. Hopefully I showed little girls out there that you can play at this level,” she told the crowd. 

While difficult, the team pulled together after Davis was injured, with Taylor McCabe and Sydney Affolter picking up duties in the guard position. 

“I think that kind of just speaks to what our culture is like; it’s always next man up,” Clark said. “Obviously, it’s hard watching an injury like that. I didn’t see it; a lot of us had our backs turned away. Molly is somebody who gives so much and plays so hard. I think you kind of want to do it for her, so it almost gives me energy in a way.” 

According to a release from Iowa on Monday evening, Davis will miss the Big Ten Tournament but is expected to undergo physical therapy next week to improve mobility for postseason play.

“While we feel for Molly that she got injured during Senior Day, we are so thankful that the injury she sustained is not season-ending,” Bluder said in the release. “Our program has appreciated everyone’s support and prayers as we look forward to her return at some point during the postseason.”

Iowa seniors Gabbie Marshall and Caitlin Clark (22) celebrate Marshall’s three-pointer dung Iowa’s Senior Day on Sunday, March 3, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Ray/

Looking toward the future

Losing five seniors, including arguably the best player in all of college basketball, will be a tough transition for the Hawkeyes moving forward. 

But Bluder is hoping the program’s success and dedicated fanbase will continue to fill the gap — and the seats. Among Iowa’s top high school recruits in attendance Sunday were 2025 No. 10 overall guard Emilee Skinner (Ridgeline, Utah); 2026 No. 8 overall wing Addison Bjorn (Kansas City, Mo.); and 2026 No. 17 overall guard Maddyn Greenway (Plymouth, Minn.)

ESPN’s Rowe, who has been to numerous Iowa women’s games the past few years, urged the crowd to continue to support the team and all of women’s sports. 

“Next year, I want to see this arena just as full,” she said. “I expect these crowds forevermore.” 

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Clark is proud of what she and her teammates have built, but believes the team will continue its success with its positive culture and style of play. 

“Obviously there’s been ups and downs. I think the biggest part of my maturity and growth has been [being] able to handle that and balance everything that’s going on around me and the noise around me. It can be hard at times but I would never change that for the world,” she said. “I think that’s what’s been so fun about this whole ride is the style of basketball we play; people love it. They’re not just here for me. I’m sure I help, but at the end of the day we have a really great team and a really great culture and that’s what makes it so fun.”

The 26-4 Hawkeyes are the No. 2 seed in this week’s Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis and will face the winner of No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 10 Wisconsin. They are seeking their third straight Big Ten Tournament championship.

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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