Indiana slows down Caitlin Clark in pivotal win against Iowa

  • 02/23/2024 12:03 pm in

Three days before Indiana took on the Iowa Hawkeyes, the Hoosiers found themselves recovering from a bad loss. Indiana had been embarrassed at the State Farm Center. A 20-point defeat to Illinois sent them back to Bloomington, ashamed of the performance they had put on. But even with the difficult loss, another challenging task was on their radar.

With the biggest game of the year ahead, Indiana knew something had to change. The Hoosiers needed to perform differently than they had prior in the week and couldn’t afford a similar performance to the one they had on Jan. 13, the last time they played the Hawkeyes.

Indiana needed to step back and look at themselves in the mirror.

“We got back on Monday before film,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said. “They had a player team meeting, which they have often, and we had one of the best practices of the year. You could just tell they wanted to make this thing right tonight.”

From there, the fire and hunger from Indiana began to brew.

The Hawkeyes walked into Assembly Hall and saw something unfold that hadn’t happened much in the last four years. Caitlin Clark and the rest of the Iowa offense were put to a halt. Indiana earned an 86-69 win against Iowa and it all came down to Indiana’s toughness on defense.

From the opening tip, Indiana did something defensively that they rarely do. The Hoosiers went to a box-and-1 defense, showing early on that this time around, Indiana was going to do whatever possible to limit Clark.

Their plan worked and Clark’s scoring ability was held in check for the first time in a long time.

“I think being physical,” Clark said about Indiana’s defense. “I think face guarding me, denying the ball, they threw a lot of different people at me. I thought very physical, that was the main thing, and they kinda pushed me off my spots and put me a little deeper than I wanted to be. They threw a box-and-1 at us; other than that, we played mostly man-to-man, and yeah, I would just say physicality and denying me the ball.”

As the game progressed, it became clear that for the first time this season, Iowa was entirely out of rhythm, playing to their opponent’s pace and not their own.

Not only was Indiana able to control the game of Clark, but they also limited those around her. Last time, back in January, Indiana lost the game because of those helping hands surrounding Clark. In their previous meeting, Molly Davis, Kate Martin, and Gabbie Marshall combined for 40 points alongside Clark’s 30.

This time, those same players combined for just 27 points, and in the second half, Clark finished with four points.

Going up against the No. 4 team in the country is easier said than done, but on Thursday night, Indiana showed off the particular “juice” they possess. It was clear that Indiana wanted this one bad. Not a single second of the game went without the Indiana team pouring their emotions out on every play.

Iowa has gotten the best of Indiana multiple times in the past few seasons, but this time around, especially after the Monday afternoon loss, this one meant a little more.

“You could just see it brewing in the last two days of practice,” Moren said. “Tuesday was really good, and yesterday wasn’t bad either, so you could just tell there was a different feel in terms of their focus and how they came in. Probably a little bit more stoic and serious …You could just tell that they were gonna come out and give it everything that they had.”

The Hoosiers now have their signature victory of the season, as it was an overall special night for Indiana and the brand that Moren continues to build. A few days prior, Indiana was stunned by a difficult road loss. The loss had potentially compromised their chances of hosting the NCAA tournament, but now they have put their name back in that conversation while doing it in a dominant fashion.

No team in college basketball can put together a perfect 40-minute plan, but the Hoosiers on Monday night, in front of 17,222 fans, weren’t losing. Indiana’s game plan was as perfect as it gets.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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