NCAA Tournament: Caitlin Clark reflects on Iowa crowd, win over West Virginia in final home game

West Virginia made it tough on top-seeded Iowa in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament, but Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes made enough plays down the stretch — and hit their free throws — en route to a 64-54 victory. Clark’s team is back in the Sweet 16 after she led the way with 32 points and eight rebounds.

“There’s a lot of positive 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.”

In what’s likely the final home game of her career prior to entering the WNBA Draft, Clark and the Hawkeyes scored only six points in the second quarter and led by two points at halftime before getting some breathing room in the third quarter.

NCAA Tournament: Caitlin Clark reflects on Iowa crowd, win over West Virginia in final home game

The Mountaineers trailed by 10 in the fourth before tying things up, but that’s when Iowa responded at the charity stripe, making 14-of-17 in the final frame.

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Here’s what Clark said about advancing to the Sweet 16, Iowa’s crowd and her team’s victory:

On making heart gesture at teammate Hannah Stuelke

Yeah, I think for sure. I think our team is really good about playing until the final buzzer. I’m really proud of Hannah. She missed two free throws early in the fourth quarter and comes back and makes four in a row.


That’s tough to do, as somebody who’s really worked on her free-throw shooting. We all have confidence in her to be in those pressure situations, and really step up to the line and make four in a row after missing two in a row is tough.

Iowa's Clark shows love for the fans after they cheer her on one last time at Carver-Hawkeye Arena | AP News

She extended it to a three-possession game for us, and that gives you a lot of confidence. With the way our defense had been playing all night, I knew, if we could extend it to three possessions, we were going to be really good from there on out. So I’m just really proud of her honestly.

On West Virginia’s fight

This is definitely up there with the best of them mentally and emotionally and physically, grinding this out and getting the win.

To be honest, looking back on our journey last year, to me, this is one of the hardest rounds in the NCAA Tournament. 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, last year, we were in a game that was even closer than this one.

Our group wasn’t flustered by any means when they tied it up. Yes, we had so many opportunities tonight where we got to a ten-point lead, a seven-point lead, and we couldn’t figure out a way to extend it. Honestly, we just didn’t shoot the ball very well. We didn’t make shots we normally make. We didn’t shoot it too great from the three-point line.

I think that should give us a lot of motivation. West Virginia is a really good basketball team. We found a way to win. We changed up our defenses. We got big rebounds when it mattered. We made big free throws.

I think that’s the biggest thing. There’s a lot of positive to take away from this when maybe we didn’t even play our best basketball or look as pretty. That’s more fulfilling of a win for us than going out there and winning by 30 points.

“Our group wasn’t flustered by any means when they tied it up.

Iowa's Caitlin Clark prepares for West Virginia, final home game

Yes, we had so many opportunities tonight where we got to a ten-point lead, a seven-point lead, and we couldn’t figure out a way to extend it. Honestly, we just didn’t shoot the ball very well. We didn’t make shots we normally make. We didn’t shoot it too great from the three-point line. I think that should give us a lot of motivation. West Virginia is a really good basketball team. We found a way to win.

We changed up our defenses. We got big rebounds when it mattered. We made big free throws. I think that’s the biggest thing. There’s a lot of positive to take away from this when maybe we didn’t even play our best basketball or look as pretty. That’s more fulfilling of a win for us than going out there and winning by 30 points.”

Our group wasn’t flustered by any means when they tied it up. Yes, we had so many opportunities tonight where we got to a ten-point lead, a seven-point lead, and we couldn’t figure out a way to extend it. Honestly, we just didn’t shoot the ball very well. We didn’t make shots we normally make. We didn’t shoot it too great from the three-point line. I think that should give us a lot of motivation. West Virginia is a really good basketball team. We found a way to win. We changed up our defenses. We got big rebounds when it mattered. We made big free throws.

I think that’s the biggest thing. There’s a lot of positive to take away from this when maybe we didn’t even play our best basketball or look as pretty. That’s more fulfilling of a win for us than going out there and winning by 30 points.

On WNBA goals

“Oh, gosh, I think that’s a loaded question. I think, first and foremost, my focus is solely on this team. That was one of the reasons I made this decision of letting everybody know like 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. That’s sad, but at the same time, when this journey does end, the WNBA, it’s a quick flip. You’ve got to be ready for it.

“Yeah, I think the time will come when I sit down and think about all my professional goals and aspirations, but for right now, my goal is to help this team win a national title and have a lot of fun doing it and smile on the way out and enjoy every single second because it’s gone in the blink of an eye. I can’t believe I’m a senior and I just played my last game here. So I think that’s the biggest thing.”


On soaking in final home game

“I think at the beginning of the game during the national anthem, that’s just something I tried to do all year long is soak in our crowds and look around and enjoy it and kind of take a deep breath. You look around, and it’s like standing room only.

The place is so hot because there’s so many people in there and there’s no air conditioning. I just look around, and that’s when I try to soak it in the most. Then obviously the game starts and you’re not really too worried about it.

At the end of the game, I would have never left the court if I wasn’t forced to get off. I think those are the two moments that I soaked it in the most.”

On Iowa managing only seven assists

“I think it’s definitely difficult when people are out-pressuring and denying us like they were. There’s definitely something we can learn from. There’s going to be teams we face going into the next round that are going to pressure us the exact same way.

I thought we should have ripped through, we should have been a triple threat. We should have been ready to make passes.

“Also, I thought we drove downhill really well. That’s what you’re going to get when people are pressuring you. Yeah, seven assists is not Iowa basketball, but at the same time, we didn’t make many shots. We only made 17 shots. We made five threes.

Caitlin Clark sets scoring mark as No. 1 Iowa survives vs. WVU | National | themercury.com

I was the only one to make a three. Like I said, our offense wasn’t stellar by any means tonight. But I’m just so proud of our group. Our defense was really phenomenal. I know we’ll get right back to it. It’s kind of an anomaly.

That’s what happens sometimes, but you’ve got to be gritty and find a way and win, and that’s exactly what this team did.”

“Also, I thought we drove downhill really well. That’s what you’re going to get when people are pressuring you. Yeah, seven assists is not Iowa basketball, but at the same time, we didn’t make many shots. We only made 17 shots. We made five threes.

I was the only one to make a three. Like I said, our offense wasn’t stellar by any means tonight. But I’m just so proud of our group. Our defense was really phenomenal. I know we’ll get right back to it. It’s kind of an anomaly. That’s what happens sometimes, but you’ve got to be gritty and find a way and win, and that’s exactly what this team did.”

On crowd inside Hawkeye Arena

“I think I could probably talk about them for a really long time. I think more than anything it’s just like thank you.

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 people and these fans have showed up, and they’ll continue to show up.

“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, and they’ve been a big part of that too.

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 sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena and cheering for young girls that want to be like us.

“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, and they’ve been a big part of that too. 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 sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena and cheering for young girls that want to be like us.



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