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Caitlin Clark makes Player of the Year case with 42-point game

(Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark remained in rare form Thursday night, putting up 42 points in No. 6 Iowa’s 96-82 win against against No. 8 Maryland.

In addition to her 13-of-19 shooting, Clark had seven rebounds and eight assists. She had another 40-plus point performance against NC State earlier this season, which makes her the only NCAA Division I men’s or women’s player with two 40-plus point games against ranked opponents this season.

Thursday’s performance also marked her sixth total 40-point game, the most in Big Ten history.

“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said of Clark. “A pleasure to watch play unless you’re scouting her and going against her. She can do so many things well. She’s a special player.”

Clark had 24 points by halftime, which helped bolster Iowa’s 56-38 lead heading into the break.

She’s just the second player in the last 20 seasons to have a 40/5/5 game in a win over a top-10 opponent, according to ESPN. The only other is Lindsay Whalen, who did so for Minnesota in 2002. She went on to win four WNBA titles with the Minnesota Lynx and recently was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.

“I’m not sure how you can’t call Clark the national player of the year with the season she has had,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I don’t know how you can say that she is not. She was unbelievable tonight.”

But Clark isn’t concerned about the accolades.

“As long as my team wins, all that takes care of itself,” she said. “It’s not something I think about every day. But that is a huge honor. Even last year when I was in the conversation for it, it is a huge honor. It’s a huge honor for our team, for our program to have players in that conversation just like Megan [Gustafson] was. It is a big deal, so it’s not something that, I don’t just brush it off.

“But that’s not the reason you play the game of basketball. I play it because I love it.”

Iowa also benefitted from a big night by Monika Czinano, who scored 28 points on 14-of-18 shooting. The Hawkeyes shot 61.7% from the field, which proved too much for Maryland to overcome; the Terrapins shot 42.3% as a team.