Iowa basketball just missed out on its first No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 since 1988. But that “doesn’t matter,” head coach Lisa Bluder said.
The Hawkeyes moved up one spot to No. 2 following losses by the previous top two teams, LSU and UConn, in the opening week of the season. South Carolina jumped five spots to become the new No. 1.
UCLA, Utah and Colorado round out the top five in the new poll, released Monday, followed by No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 LSU and No. 8 UConn.
“We’ll see,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said about the No. 1 ranking after Sunday’s 94-53 win against Northern Iowa. “It really doesn’t matter if we are or not. It’s a long year. What are we this week? Three? That’s darn good too.”
Star senior Caitlin Clark agreed, saying: “I think it was a good (week), it gets you off on the right note. But our group is mature enough to know this is just the starting block.”
The Hawkeyes were buoyed, of course, by Clark. After putting up 44 points in an 80-76 win against No. 8 Virginia Tech on Thursday, she put up the 12th triple-double of her career against UNI.
Her 24 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds made history: She is now Iowa’s all-time leading scorer. And she joins Oregon-turned-WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu as the only NCAA Division I players to record triple-doubles in four separate seasons. Ionescu finished her career with 26, and Clark is second on the all-time list.
Following Iowa’s win over UNI, Panthers head coach Tanya Warren called Clark “the best player in the country.”
“Caitlin Clark is the best player in the country,” Warren said. “No ifs, ands or buts about it. You’re not going to stop her, you’re not going to contain her. You just want to make things tough for her.”
Ahead of the game, Clark knew she was close to Iowa’s all-time scoring record, which was held by former national player of the year and current Phoenix Mercury center Megan Gustafson.
“Megan’s been our biggest fan on this whole journey,” Clark said. “Megan reached out to me last night and said, ‘You’re very, very deserving of this. Go out there and do it.’ It’s not the first time she’s reached out and texted me. She’s always there. And that’s not fake — Megan is one of the best people of all time.”
And Gustafson gave Clark praise following the record-breaking performance.
“Congrats on breaking my record,” she said. “As soon as I watched you play as a freshman I really did know that, my record [was] not gonna last very long. But that’s a huge tribute to the program that Iowa has built, that you have built. You’ve inspired so many kids, boys and girls, all over the world, all over the state of Iowa.”
Meant every word 🖤💛 https://t.co/GjxqdSNImm— Megan Gustafson (@GustafsonMeg10) November 12, 2023
Meant every word 🖤💛 https://t.co/GjxqdSNImm
But Clark doesn’t want to hold onto the record.
“Records are meant to be broken,” she said. “So I hope Iowa has a really great player one day who can break mine, too.”