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Iowa’s Caitlin Clark: ‘Whenever I score 40 points, we lose’

Caitlin Clark has been in the National Player of the Year conversation every year since she was a freshman. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

When Caitlin Clark scores 40-plus points in a game, the basketball world pays attention. Watching her go on high-volume scoring sprees and putting up shots from the Iowa Hawkeyes logo is undeniably exciting.

For spectators, anyway. Not for Clark.

The junior guard doesn’t like looking at a box score and seeing more than 40 points by her name. She knows it’s not a recipe for success. Because when Clark has to contribute such insane scoring numbers, it means the rest of her team is cold. And when No. 10 Iowa doesn’t have balance, the Hawkeyes don’t win.

I think whenever I score 40 points, we lose,” Clark told reporters after a 94-81 loss to NC State. “So it’s not something I want to do.”

In the five games during her career where Clark has scored 40-plus points, the Hawkeyes are 2-3.

Against No. 12 NC State on Thursday night, Clark finished with 45 points on 16-28 shooting, with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. The next highest scorer for Iowa was McKenna Warnock with 15 points. The rest of the starters combined for 12 total points, and second-leading scorer Monika Czinano finished with 5. 

That, combined with a poor defensive-showing was too much for the Hawkeyes to overcome, despite Clark’s heroic performance.

The Wolfpack shot 55.4% from the field, including 53.8% from beyond the arc. And while Iowa struggled to find offense outside of Clark, NC State had a balanced scoring effort.

Saniya Rivers and Diamond Johnson led with 22 points apiece, with Rivers having a breakout game. The sophomore, who transferred in from South Carolina after being the No. 3 recruit her freshman season, recorded her career high. Heading into Thursday’s contest, her previous high stood at 9, and she was averaging 8.9 points per game.

The Wolfpack also had double-digit scoring efforts from Jakia Brown-Turner (17), Jada Boyd (12) and Camille Hobby (10).

NC State’s 94 points is their second-most on the season. The Wolfpack had 96 in a win over Charlotte on Nov. 16.

This was NC State’s first top-25 win of the season, and Iowa’s third loss of the year, with two coming to top-25 teams and one coming at the hands of unranked Kansas State. For the Hawkeyes, it was yet another game with the same problems: lack of defense from the whole team, and lack off offense from everyone other than Clark. 

The team generally can count on Czinano, as she averaged 17.2 points heading into Thursday’s contest. The fifth-year senior’s 5 points are the least she’s scored since a January 2022 contest in which she had 4 against Michigan State. The Hawkeyes struggled to get the ball inside, and Czinano finished with just 4 shot attempts. 

“I don’t know why we couldn’t get her the ball tonight, honestly,”coach Lisa Bluder told reporters. “They were on her back. I mean, why can’t we pass a ball to a post when the post defense is on her back? It’s maddening.”

The loss to NC State marks Iowa’s second defeat in a row. The Hawkeyes fell to UConn 86-79 on Nov. 27, but the result felt much different. In that contest, Iowa put together a better team showing. Clark led with 25 points, Kate Martin had 20, Warnock had 14, Gabbie Marshall added 10, and Czinano had 8. 

Defensively, they also put together a better showing.

“I thought our defense was pretty good against UConn,” Clark told reporters on Thursday. “But then we come here on our home floor, and it wasn’t good at all. And that’s the reason we lost. It wasn’t anything other than that.”