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Iowa perseveres past Georgia, advances to Sweet Sixteen

The No. 2 seeded Iowa Hawkeyes redeemed themselves from last year’s second round exit by defeating the physically tough No. 10 seeded Georgia Lady Bulldogs to earn a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in Seattle.

They played together as a team and each contributed while freshman forward Hannah Stuelke was out with an ankle injury she sustained in practice on Saturday.

From the outset, the pace was blinding as the Lady Bulldogs came out quicker than usual knowing that the Hawkeyes play at a very high caliber. Thus, both sides were essentially on equal footing. The first five minutes of the game quickly became a battle for control of the game, with Iowa holding a slight lead at 12–8 with 4:45 remaining.

Georgia looked to limit the amount of points that Iowa would normally easily generate from the 3-point line and relied on their pressure-filled defense to make the Hawkeyes work for their points. As a result, Iowa did exactly that, with most of their points coming from inside and on a foul line, with the exception being two 3-pointers, one each from Kaitlin Clark and Kate Martin.

Their biggest Achilles heel that would plague them throughout the game were turnovers, which the Lady Bulldogs capitalized on as much as they could.

At the 2:48 mark, Hawkeyes guard Molly Davis was seen in pain on the court after a hard foul while going after a loose ball in the Georgia end, possibly leaving room for an absence of relief on offense. However, he was quickly seen back on the bench to return to the game.

The Lady Bulldogs did exactly what they set out to do and it was the Diamond Battle that would keep them in the game with their sharpshooting and physical style of play. The Hawkeyes continued to grind their way out and led 19–17 at the end of the first.

Clark had six points and Battle had seven.

As the second quarter began, the Hawkeyes tried to go out on a run as they normally do once they sensed the dynamics of the game. An early 3-pointer by Gabe Marshall put Iowa ahead 22–17, and it took off from there.

The fight was still the catalyst behind Georgia’s will and skill as she continued to bolster the Lady Bulldogs’ offense with tenacity. Shooting from inside the line and at the foul line, she was able to reach double figures quickly.

Clarke, who would usually take over, was largely in the background as his teammates helped spark another epic Hawkeye run. At 8:02, Marshall hit another three to give the Hawkeyes their biggest lead of the game at 28–21 and get the crowd at Carver-Hockey Arena on their feet. Then, at 7:28, McKenna Warnock opened it up with a 10-point lead, three of which made it 31–21, spurring the Hawkeyes on a 9–4 run.

Meanwhile, Clark was behind the 3-point line, his sweet spot, for the most part. She rarely came out in open look or from people. But it was Marshall who was handling as she hit another 3-pointer near the five-minute mark, giving her nine points, all three.

Besides, Warnock was living up to her role as a workhorse as she was scoring from all areas and had reached 10 points at the midway point of the second.

With 4:50 remaining, Iowa led 34–26.

But Georgia’s tremendous comeback on both ends and their defense enabled them to mount a comeback. At the 4:49 mark, Battle hit two free throws to lead Hawkeye to the basket and give him 13 points.

Iowa’s offense was largely neutralized and Clark was held to 6 points. At the three-minute mark, senior guard Alisha Lewis hit a huge 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead at 35–34. The momentum began to swing back in Georgia’s direction. With two minutes remaining, Monica Zinano retook the lead for Iowa with a basket in the paint.

With 58 seconds left, Marshall reached 12 points with his fourth 3-pointer to put the Hawkeyes up 39–35. But soon after, Battle hit another big three off the Glass to bring it back to a one-point game at 39–38.

Then with determination, Clark came back as he made his way into the paint for a jump shot that made the foul, 41–38. But it would be the Bulldogs who would have the final say to close out the half as senior forward Javin Nicholson scored in the final seconds to bring them back within one.

Marshall had 12 points at the break. Warnock had 10, while Clarke and Zinano had eight each.

The third quarter was a make-or-break period for the Hawkeyes. They needed to step up their game on the defensive end, limit turnovers and be more aggressive on the boards as Georgia got them where they wanted them. After a Brittany Smith basket broke things open for Georgia, the Carver crowd was re-energized as Cizzinano scored inside to give the Hawkeyes a 43–42 lead.

Then, at 8:49, Clark got his mojo back from his favorite spot on the court as he hit a three to put the Hawkeyes ahead 46–42.

By this time, four Hawkeye players (Clark, Zinano, Warnock, and Marshall) had scored in double digits, while Battle still had 16 points. With both sides fighting for control.

After a Hawkeye turnover and a Georgia fast-break basket by junior forward Zoesha Smith tied the game at 46, Clark answered with a three to put the Hawkeyes ahead 49–46.

When play resumed after a full timeout, Nicholson hit a basket at the 4:12 mark to put the Bulldogs within one again. They went back to forwards on defense as they continued to disorganize the Hawkeyes.

At 2:38, Nicholson gave the Bulldogs the lead with an inside basket that made it 52–51 and it looked like Georgia was going to enter the final quarter on a high note as the sluggishness of the Hawkeyes’ play became apparent. was happening.

But Iowa had other plans in mind.

A Czinano basket inside took them back. After a Lady Bulldogs turnover, Marshall hit her fifth 3-pointer to put Iowa ahead 56–52 with about 1:20 remaining. Then, a Warnock jumper in the corner gave them a six-point lead at 58–52 with less than 50 seconds remaining.

Two free throws by Jordan Isaacs allowed the Bulldogs to cut the lead to four going into the fourth.

A classic March Madness finish was in the making. A chance for Iowa to advance or survive through another shortfall at home in the second round. Georgia had a chance to live up to expectations.

Smith opened things up with a basket to make it a two-point game at 58–56.

Then after a period of poor play at both ends, Clarke stepped up and used his impressive delegation skills to open the floodgates for his team at a crucial time. First she went to the line to hit two free throws and cut Iowa’s lead to four points, 60–56. Then he found Warnock inside at the 7:08 mark and extended the lead to six. Finally, he found Czinano in the paint for a basket to make it 64–56 and go on an 8–2 run.

but it was the battles that fit fought a battle His way through the hysteria in Carver as he hit another 3-pointer to cut Iowa’s lead to five.

With only five minutes remaining, things began to point in the Hawkeyes’ favor, as they had a large lead, but there was still plenty of time left. Another basket by Battle followed by a turnover by Warnock and a foul by Marshall gave the Bulldogs only five to trail at 66–61.

Smith hit a huge basket to cut it to three, giving him 12 points. But soon after, Cizzinano was fouled on the other end and sent to the foul line to shoot two. He converted both of his 20 points and one to give Iowa a five-point lead at 68–63. This got the crowd on their feet with 3:10 remaining.

The tension was so obvious that attempts to cut it with a knife were of no use. Less than two minutes later, fifth-year guard/forward Audrey Warren put Georgia back in the basket with an epic three in the corner that briefly silenced the crowd.

With less than a minute to go, the possibilities were endless and the excitement was inconceivable.

Who else but Clark was the one who took over as he converted a floater running off the glass to put the Hawkeyes up 70-68 with 42.8 seconds left and Georgia to take a full timeout.

Clark brought the crowd to its feet as Georgia took possession, waving his traditional arm. A big tip of the ball from Warnock went into the hands of Cizzinano, who took it to Clarke, who was able to kill time as she dribbled toward the other end just as Iowa called a timeout.

25.1 seconds were between Iowa and the Sweet Sixteen.

An inbound pass from Clarke was stolen by Battle and he tried to drive it to the hole before failing to convert on the layup as he was tripped up by Warnock. Iowa fouled off the rebound.

Then, with 3.8 seconds left, the tension reached a boiling point when Marshall was tackled hard along the baseline by Isaacs. Marshall was seen walking to the bench holding his mouth as if he was bleeding. An exchange of words ensued between Isaac and Cizinano, which led to an intentional foul against Isaac.

It fell to Clarke to seal the Bulldogs’ fate on the free throws and he did exactly that as he made both to make it 72–66 Iowa. He had two more hits after Nicholson intentionally fouled him.

When the final buzzer sounded after 17 turnovers hampered by their offense several times, Iowa came away with a 74–66 victory. For Czinano and Warnock, it was their last game at Carver.

Clark finished with another double-double: 22 points, 12 assists and three rebounds. Czinano had 20 points and nine rebounds. Marshall had 15 points, one assist and one rebound. Warnock had 14 points, eight rebounds and two assists.

For Georgia, Battle finished with 21 points, six rebounds and one assist. Nicholson had 12 points and eight rebounds. Smith had 12 points, three rebounds and one assist. Lewis had 8 points, 10 assists and two rebounds. Isaac had six points, 10 rebounds and two assists.

After his impressive shooting performance, Marshall spoke about the importance of growing in confidence as the competition only gets stronger from here on.

“I think you gain confidence as the shots go down,” she said. “It’s only going to get tougher and the teams are going to get better from here and we know that. We’re just going to have the same mindset, take it game by game, day by day. I think we’re ready.” We’re excited. Obviously to be able to get to the Sweet Sixteen is really special and I think we’re just about to close, stay focused.

Iowa (28-6) will play the winner of No. 3 seed Duke/No. 6 seed Colorado matchup that airs Monday at 9 PM ET. The Sweet Sixteen game will take place on Friday (Time: TBA).

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