Caitlin Clark, Gabbie Marshall, Sydney Affolter react to Sweet 16 win vs. Colorado

All five of Iowa’s starters delivered in the Hawkeyes’ Sweet 16 win over Colorado.

Each of those five finished in double-figure scoring. The trio of senior guard Caitlin Clark, junior guard Sydney Affolter and fifth-year guard Gabbie Marshall were certainly impressive.

Clark secured her 66th career double-double, dropping 29 points and dishing out 15 assists. Affolter was a perfect 6-for-6 shooting and finished with 15 points.

Meanwhile, Gabbie March-all was in full effect. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native was red hot from deep, sinking 4-of-5 3-point looks in the Hawkeyes’ 89-68 win over the Buffs.

After Iowa locked up a return trip to the Elite Eight, that trio met with the media to discuss the Hawkeyes’ big win over Colorado and to preview its national championship game rematch versus LSU.

Iowa’s 6-0 run to start the second half after building a 48-35 halftime lead

Caitlin Clark: Yeah, that’s what we talked about in the locker room at halftime, is really come out and dominate that third quarter from the start and that’s exactly what we did, we forced them to use a time-out.

Caitlin Clark and Gabbie Marshall

I thought we just really controlled the game. Once we got that lead, we were able to sustain it. Even when they went on a few runs, we were able to switch up our player defense, our zone defense. I thought that caused them a few problems.

But overall I just thought we executed offensively, whether it was in zone, whether it was in man-to-man, whether it was in transition, and then we did a great job on defense. Just a complete basketball game is what it felt like.

What it’s like to be on the receiving end of a Caitlin Clark and-1

Sydney Affolter: Yeah, I think we get reps like that all the time in practice, and Caitlin is the best passer in college basketball, and that’s what we like to do, we like to get out and run, and she always finds us in transition.

On the chance to play LSU again

Caitlin Clark: Yeah, I think we’re excited. Anytime you have a chance to go up against somebody you lost to, it brings a little more energy.

At this point in the tournament every single team is good, whether you’re playing West Virginia, whether you’re playing Colorado, whether you’re playing LSU you prep the exact same way. You come in the exact same mindset.

I think overall it’s just going to be a really great game for women’s basketball. They’re really solid one through five. We know we are going to have to rebound the basketball. But obviously I don’t know the ins and outs of everything about them because we haven’t gone through the scout yet.

But more than anything I think just building off this win today, I think this was the first time in about three games we were able to put together what felt like a complete basketball game on both ends of the floor, whether it was in transition or on defense or really executing our offense. I think being able to build off that and take that momentum into our next game.

What Caitlin Clark’s mindset was coming into the game

Caitlin Clark: Yeah, I knew they were going to give me really good ball pressure coming into this game, and honestly when we set our first couple of ball screens, they were playing drop coverage. Just kind of their big was just staying in the paint. I knew either Hannah was going to be open on the roll or I was going to be able to get pretty easy lay-ups, and that’s kind of what they went with, more just me off all the screens and giving up drives.

Luckily I was able — I think I only missed one two-point shot tonight. Obviously I didn’t shoot it as great from three, but I thought my penetration to the basket was really good.

I think that also led to quite a few of my assists, too, because it made them pick and choose exactly what they wanted to do.

But when we’re able to get stops on defense, that’s where I really thrive in the transition game, and I think Syd runs the floor really well. Hannah runs the floor really well. Those are tough passes to catch and handle and finish more than anything. I’m just proud of them. You don’t get an assist if your teammate doesn’t make the basket.

Then obviously the way Gab shot the ball tonight, 80 percent from three. It seemed like she came up with some very timely threes right when we maybe had a couple turnovers. Gabbie was always right there to find an answer for us.

What playing in the spotlight, in front of a big crowd does to Iowa’s mindset

Caitlin Clark: Honestly I think when I step on the court, like a calming sense comes over me. This is where I’m supposed to be. I have 13 amazing teammates that have my back. These are the moments you’ve worked so hard for, this is what you’ve put the time in for in the gym all by yourself and with your teammates.

I guess it’s just kind of like go let your work shine, go have fun, go have a blast, and win or lose, there’s a lot to hold your head high about. I thought that’s exactly what we did. Everybody kind of played with a smile on their face and had a lot of fun.

I speak for everybody on our team, we did not come into this game knowing LSU had won, and we’re like, oh, we want to win to play LSU. We came into this game like, no, we focused on this game, we’re focused on beating Colorado because Colorado is a really good basketball team. In my eyes they’ve played in one of the best conferences in the country, in the Pac-12 all year long. They’ve gone up against really great competition, and I thought we defended really, really well.

I think that’s the biggest thing is, I came in with a sense of a calming presence and knowing that I have people that have my back and this is a game that I put a lot of time into, and I’m only promised 40 more minutes. Might as well go win it.

On how often she thinks back to last season’s national championship game

Caitlin Clark: Oh, gosh. Honestly not that much. Ever since this season started, my focus is like 1-0 every single time we take the court. I think that’s exactly wheat Coach Bluder preaches.

I’m not caught up in the past, not caught up in the future. I try to keep my feet right in the present and be where my feet are, and prepare one game at a time. I don’t think I would be able to be the player I am if I was too worried about what has happened or what is going to happen.

Yeah, you can learn from everything, but to be honest, the run we went on last year, it goes so fast, and it kind of is a blur at this point. I almost remember everything in between the basketball games better than the actual basketball games.

I think the biggest thing to take away from that is everything comes down to one possession. I think that’s what our group learned from that journey is we played in a lot of really tight, close games, and being able to execute down the stretch is really important.

I don’t know, I think that’s the biggest thing. Sorry my memory is not very great, but that’s all I’ve got.

What Iowa does to play to its strengths

Gabbie Marshall: Yeah, I think you kind of have to pick and choose with our team. Obviously there’s a lot of attention on Caitlin, and she’s going to get one or two people who have to look at her throughout the whole possession. So I think that leaves other people open.

I think she does a great job of finding her teammates, finding who’s open, reading the defense before the defense even does what they’re going to do. I think that truly speaks to what we try to do. We pass up good shots for great shots. We really pride ourselves on our assists.

We are kind of just hard to guard because you have to pick and choose. If you’re going to stay out on Hannah, the shooters are going to be wide open. And I think that’s kind of what you saw tonight is just a complete basketball game. 20 assists, that’s Iowa basketball for you right there.

How important it was to set the tone that it was going to be a team effort

Sydney Affolter: Yeah, we always preach that there’s five players on the court, and everyone on the bench, and no one is more important than anyone else in our circle. When we go out there, we know that they’re going to have a lot of their eyes on Caitlin, and that’s going to leave us open.

We’re confident in each other to knock down those shots, and that’s what we’re going to do.

Gabbie Marshall: I think she said it perfectly. Just makes us harder to guard. If we move the ball like we did tonight, it makes the defense even harder. Things open up when you’re hitting shots from the outside and there’s balanced scoring. So I think it makes Caitlin’s job a little easier when we are all hitting shots and can provide some of that offensive threat.

What was working for Gabbie offensively

Gabbie Marshall: Yeah, I think when they went into that zone, it kind of opened up like more passes and they were pretty spread out and they had to worry about Caitlin up at the top and that gave me more room to shoot it. It led to pretty much, I don’t know, a lot of open looks at the three. So I think just having my feet set, being ready to shoot is kind of what I did out there when they switched to that zone.

If it felt like a home crowd

Gabbie Marshall: I mean, yeah. When you look around you see a bunch of Hawk fans, a bunch of black and gold. It was loud in there, and I think that’s kind of what we’re used to. We love those environments. We love when it’s wild, crazy, energetic, and we kind of feed off of it, and it gives us momentum.

What the feeling is of being 40 minutes away from a return trip to the Final Four

Gabbie Marshall: Yeah, I think it’s exciting. Obviously we’re going to have the same mentality every single game. It’s been one game at a time, and it’s going to continue to be that way, and we’re going to prep the same way for LSU as we have all year.

I think we’re focused on this next game. We’re not going to get too far ahead of ourselves. Obviously that is the goal, but we’re just going to focus on this next 40 minutes and know the coaches are going to have us prepared and just play Iowa basketball.

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