Propelled by monster performances from Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano, No. 4 Iowa women’s basketball escaped an upset in an overtime contest with Drake on Sunday.
And while the Hawkeyes celebrated the 92-86 victory in Clark’s hometown, there was a feeling of déjà vu – and not the good kind.
Because while their comeback was exciting, it also heralded back to many of Iowa’s games last year, and to this common storyline: Clark and Czinano were a dynamic scoring duo, but where were the rest of the Hawkeyes?
When Iowa was bounced by Creighton in the NCAA tournament, the issue that plagued them all season came front and center in their downfall. Clark and Czinano take on too much, and other Hawkeyes need to step up.
Against Creighton, Clark finished with 15 points, while Czinano had 27. No other Iowa player scored more than 6 points.
Against Drake, the scoresheet looked similar, as Clark and Czinano combined for 64 of Iowa’s 92 points. The only other Hawkeye who hit double digits was McKenna Warnock, who finished with 11.
Is this a new season with the same issues for the Hawkeyes?
Iowa has played three games, winning all three, and against Evansville and Southern, Iowa had more offensive contributors. Those teams, though, aren’t on the same level as Drake.
The Bulldogs are getting votes in the AP Top 25 poll, and a game against No. 22 Nebraska on Saturday might give a better indication of how good Drake really is. Led by sophomore Katie Dinnebier with 24 points, all five Bulldog starters finished in the double digits in scoring. They also held Clark to 9-for-28 shooting (32%), well below her 2021-22 average of 45.2%.
By the time the season ends, don’t be surprised if we see Drake with a few upsets to its name and a chance at an NCAA tournament bid. So Drake is a good basketball team, but that just underlines the concern over Iowa’s depth.
Clark and Czinano can’t do it all, and despite the initial look of the box score against Drake, there is potential for a few other players to step up going forward.
The 6-foot-1 senior has made her name over the last three seasons as an elite rebounder, and against Drake, she surpassed Chase Coley to set Iowa’s rebounding record. Warnock also had 11 points, the only other double-digit scorer for Iowa, and she posted that mark while battling foul-trouble.
Last season Warnock averaged 11 points per game, and through three games this season, she’s averaging 10.3. Still, she’s had big scoring bursts, scoring over 20 points four times last season.
If the Hawkeyes can get even a couple more buckets per game from Warnock, taking her average up to around 15 points, that could make a difference. If she’s more of a threat, then opponents will have to devote more defensive resources to Warnock, opening things up for Clark, Czinano and hopefully making way for more scoring from other Hawkeyes.
The senior guard has never been a big scorer, averaging 6.9 points over her career, but there has been one offensive bright spot for Marshall: 3-point shooting. She’s off to a slow start this year (2-for-12), but the senior is at 40.8% for her career.
Last season she attempted around four 3-pointers per game, a number that hasn’t changed this season. But it should. Marshall needs to be more aggressive in shooting, because good things happen for the Hawkeyes when she’s making 3s. Against Drake, she made two 3s in the third quarter, which is when Iowa mounted its comeback to retake the lead.
At this point in the season, Davis is a question mark. She transferred to Iowa after three successful seasons at Central Michigan. In the MAC, she had scoring success, leading her team with 18.6 points per game. But so far at Iowa, Davis is averaging 5.3 points per game in 25 minutes of action per contest.
Ideally, Davis will adjust to playing with the Hawkeyes and bring some of the scoring she did for Central Michigan to the court. But so far, that hasn’t happened.
If you’re an Iowa fan, here’s the player to be most excited about. It’s possible for Warnock and Marshall to increase their scoring averages, but as seniors, who have been averaging similar numbers every season, it’s not likely.
Stuelke, on the other hand, can become a third scoring option for the Hawkeyes. The 6-foot-2 freshman was ranked No. 45 in the nation coming into the season.
Named Miss Iowa Basketball during her senior season at Washington High School, she averaged 29.1 points in her final year, topping the entire state of Iowa. Scoring doesn’t always translate from the high school level to college, but Stuelke brings plenty of promise.
She scored 10 points in the season opener against Southern, then 14 against Evansville. The freshman had a harder time with Drake, finishing with 5 points on 2-for-6 shooting. It might take a while to settle in when it comes to higher-level competition, but Stuelke is playing about 15 minutes per game, and coach Lisa Bluder seems to trust her. Her natural scoring ability should develop as the season goes on, and by the time March Madness arrives, don’t be surprised to see her playing a big offensive role for the Hawkeyes.