Sydney Affolter ignored Caitlin Clark and saved Iowa’s March Madness run

The end was near. The score was tied. A little more than two minutes remained. West Virginia held the ball — and momentum. Carver-Hawkeye Arena held its breath.

Following a block by Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall, the Hawkeyes recovered possession.

Caitlin Clark stood nearby, ready to decide if her senior season would continue.

She put her hands up, asking for the ball. It didn’t arrive.

Iowa guard Sydney Affolter celebrating after scoring in a second-round NCAA Tournament game against West Virginia

So, the greatest scorer in Division I history extended both her arms as high as possible, begging to deliver another unforgettable 3-point dagger in her final home game.

“I thought they had left me in transition,” Clark said. “I was kind of all alone just standing there.”

Thousands looked to Clark. Sydney Affolter looked at the rim.

Caitlin Clark watched Sydney Affolter take the bull by the horns in Iowa's 2nd-round NCAA win | The Gazette

“I saw the opportunity,” Affolter said. “I knew I was taking that to the hole.”

In the deciding moment of Iowa’s second-round NCAA Tournament win over West Virginia, it was the junior guard — who only became a starter earlier this month, following an injury to Molly Davis — who made Iowa City erupt, driving nearly the length of the floor and converting a tiebreaking three-point play with 2:03 remaining that put Iowa up for good in the 64-54 victory.

“Syd did the right thing,” Clark said. “She’s just so crafty around the rim and she played her heart out tonight. That’s what she’s done since she’s got the starting role.

“She’s gritty. She’s not afraid of the moment. She’s tough. And she gets that and-one for us.

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark (22) reacting during a game against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the NCAA tournament second round

I’m just happy for her. She deserves it. She’s worked so hard and never really got a lot of playing time.

She was playing behind some really good players and now this is her moment and she rises to the occasion.”

Affolter finished with 13 points — her second-highest total of the season — and seven rebounds, shooting 4-of-6 from the field, while making all five free throws.

“Syd having to slip into a starting position at this time of the year is a really difficult thing to do,” coach Lisa Bluder said.

“That could upset the tempo of a lot of teams. But I think our team has always respected Syd so much and what she brought to the table.”

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