December 1, 2023 

Locked On Women’s Basketball: How Caitlin Clark can be stopped

Gigi Speer and Eric Rynston-Lobel discuss the Hawkeyes, Hoosiers, and more

Caitlin Clark has taken the NCAA by storm, but what do Iowa’s non-conference performances tell us about what it takes to beat the Hawkeyes? On Thursday’s episode of Locked On Women’s Basketball, Eric Rynston-Lobel joins host Gigi Speer to discuss how teams have tried to beat the 7–1 Big Ten heavyweights, as well as how teams across the conference have faired so far.

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First, they discussed how Caitlin Clark has evolved as a player in her senior season. Averaging 29.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game, her consistent activity across the board is a cornerstone for just about everything the Hawkeyes do.

“You watch her play every year, and then when the year ends, it’s like, ‘well, how could she possibly get that much better?’ Rynston-Lobel said. “The big thing that I was looking at [this year] was, what is she going to look like as the real leader of this offense … now [Monika Czinano] and [McKenna Warnock] are gone … and it’s on her shoulders to lead the way.”

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Rynston-Lobel spoke about how Caitlin Clark and Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder have focused on improving intangible aspects of Clark’s game, including her mental toughness. “If you watched her [during] her freshman, sophomore years, she would get a little bit rattled on the floor,” he explained. “So I think the fact that she’s been able to improve in that area has been a big reason why she’s continued to have the level of success she’s had, because we know the talent is there. It’s just a matter of continuing to hone those other skills on the margins to really continue to elevate her play.”

Speer brought up the difference in Clark’s performances between the Hawkeye’s two games against Kansas State, namely improving her field goal percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio. The two also discussed Iowa’s other key players, including Kate Martin and Gabbie Marshall, as well as head coach Lisa Bluder’s 500th career win.

There was also plenty to discuss from around the Big Ten, including Indiana’s bounce back after a tough early loss to Stanford. Led by star forward Mackenzie Holmes, who Rynston-Lobel tabbed as “one the best players in the country,” the Hoosiers have won five straight, including against tough opponents in Tennessee and Princeton.

“Some people might be concerned about about how they’ve played so far, even though they’ve only lost the Stanford game,” Rynston-Lobel said. “[But] Indiana may have peaked a little bit too early last year, they won the Big Ten regular season, but then lost in the Big Ten tournament to Ohio State in the semifinals, and then lost to [Miami] in the round of 32.”

“The cliche always is you want to be playing your best basketball in March, and I’m not sure Indiana was. So there’s no real rush, they have the experience of winning a Big Ten title, they know what it takes. They don’t necessarily have to do it again this year in order to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.”

Tune in to hear more about the Big Ten, and check out Eric’s coverage of the conference for even more. Make sure to subscribe to the Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast to keep learning about women’s college basketball, the WNBA, basketball history and much more!

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