MINNEAPOLIS – Caitlin Clark chased down her 10th rebound for Iowa with 5:18 left in the game and flashed a knowing grin, her 10th career triple-double secured.
The Hawkeyes were all smiles all afternoon. Their second straight Big Ten Tournament title was locked up early.
Clark had 30 points, 17 assists and 10 rebounds for the seventh-ranked Hawkeyes, who built a 37-point halftime lead and beat Ohio State 105-72 on Sunday.
“That’s joy,” coach Lisa Bluder said. “To be able to play like that is so much fun, and I admire her for that. She’s so competitive, but she loves the game so much.”
Monika Czinano scored 26 points on 11-for-12 shooting – a Big Ten Tournament record percentage – as Iowa (26-6) entered the chat about a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with this championship run.
Clark had 23 points in the first half, just one fewer than the 14th-ranked Buckeyes (25-7). She stepped back for NBA-range 3-pointers from the wing, drove hard to the hoop to draw fouls and dished out a steady stream of laser-like passes that were as devastating to Ohio State’s defense as they were beautiful for the Iowa-dominated crowd to watch.
“One area where I think she’s really grown is she’s reading the floor at an extremely high level,” Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff said.
The announced attendance of 9,505 set the Big Ten Tournament record for a single session, beating the 2004 championship game in Indianapolis between Purdue and Penn State (9,417).
Clark’s final assist, one short of her career high, fed Gabbie Marshall for a 3-pointer with 4:43 left that gave the Hawkeyes their 100th point. Just before she was subbed out, Clark cupped her hand to her ear to the rile up her fans once more. A little later, she was on stage taking video of the scene as black and gold confetti showered the players during the trophy ceremony.
The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year recorded the third triple-double in Big Ten Tournament history, joining Janel McCarville (2004, Minnesota) and Amanda Zahui B. (2015, Minnesota). Clark’s was the first in the championship game.
Most of those passes were high-low feeds to Czinano, who muscled and maneuvered her way around Big Ten Freshman of the Year Cotie McMahon. McMahon had slowed Indiana star Mackenzie Holmes in the Buckeyes’ semifinal comeback from a 24-point deficit.
“Her passing skills are so phenomenal, especially coming into the post. She truly makes my life so easy,” Czinano said.
Sometimes all it takes is a glance.
“We’ve just got telepathy like that,” Clark said.
Taylor Mikesell had 24 points and McMahon added 23 points for the Buckeyes, who shot 4 for 18 in the first quarter and never recovered. Without those shots falling, they weren’t able to set up the full-court press that fueled their rally past the Hoosiers the day before.
With Indiana and Maryland having turned in resumes worthy of No. 1 seeds for the NCAA Tournament, Iowa now has a legitimate aim for the same. The Buckeyes likely solidified at least a No. 3 seed.
DRIVE HOME SAFELY
Iowa beat Indiana in the championship game last season. The Big Ten this year brought the tournament to Minneapolis for the first time, and Iowa will be happy to have it held there in 2024, too.
The Hawkeyes made Target Center their home away from home, with black and gold the dominant colors in the arena every day.
“I don’t know if we’d do it without them,” Clark said. “It’s literally home-court advantage.”
The all-time leading scorer for the Hawkeyes men’s program, Luka Garza, even showed up in a courtside seat on Sunday. He’s currently playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Marshall made all three of her 3-pointers and went 13 for 21 over the three games. Kate Martin added 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting. The Hawkeyes finished 36 for 58 to match the Big Ten Tournament record for shooting percentage (62.1) after starting the game a staggering 17 for 21.
“One of the stories of this tournament, as good as Clark and Czinano were, were the other people who made shots,” McGuff said.