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Iowa’s fast-paced offense too much for Gophers women’s basketball to overcome

The Hawkeyes put on a dominant passing display, recording an assist on 77% of their made field goals.
Image by Shannon Doyle
Gophers forward Kadi Sissoko blocks Eastern Illinois’ Karle Pace at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 2. The Gophers defeated Eastern Illinois 72-68.

Iowa’s high-powered offense came to play Sunday, defeating the Gophers women’s basketball team 94-68 off of 45 combined points from Monika Czinano and Caitlin Clark.

The red-hot Gophers looked to extend their three-game winning streak Sunday in a battle with the Iowa Hawkeyes. The two bitter Big Ten foes faced off earlier in the season and Iowa came out on top 92-79.

Iowa City, Iowa is home to one of the most prolific offenses in the country, ranking third in all of Division I basketball, averaging 88.1 points-per-contest. The Hawkeyes’ high-flying offense is led by their star freshman Clark, who is averaging a team-high 25.5 points per game, ranking fifth-best in the country.

Clark’s running mate is Czinano, a junior post player, who averages 19.8 points-per-game herself. Czinano happens to be the sister of 2021 Gophers’ commit Maggie Czinano. Slowing down the Hawkeyes’ dynamic duo would be near the top of the Gophers’ pregame scouting report.

Minnesota was without Gadiva Hubbard for the second consecutive game, as the senior guard is still recovering from an ankle injury she suffered last week against Penn State.

The Gophers were able to slow down the duo of Clark and Czinano in the first quarter, as the pair only combined for five points. That did not seem to bother Iowa, as its offense kept humming, recording an assist on all eight of its made field goals in the first quarter. Minnesota’s offense was able to keep up, only trailing 21-17 heading into the second quarter.

Czinano took over in quarter number two, going 5-for-5 from the field, adding 11 points to her game total. Iowa’s all-world ball movement continued as it finished the half with 15 assists on 16 made field goals.

“That is what they do,” Gophers’ coach Lindsay Whalen said. “Give them credit, they drive and kick and try to move the ball as fast as possible, that is what they do.”

Fortunately for the Gophers, a last second three from Sara Scalia capped off a nine-point quarter from the sharpshooter, giving Minnesota serious momentum heading into the locker room only trailing 47-41.

The offensive masterclass from Iowa continued as the second half began. The Hawkeyes made 12 more field goals coming from nine assists in the third quarter. It didn’t really matter who was shooting for Iowa, as a dominant 28-8 quarter expanded the Gophers deficit to 75-49.

The Gophers ended a 5:04 streak without scoring about midway through the fourth quarter. An offense like Iowa’s will always take advantage of a scoring drought of that length, which it did. A once 6-point deficit heading into the break ballooned as high as 31. Iowa ultimately left victorious 94-68, snapping the Gophers three-game winning streak.

“Even though we lost, I think we keep going up the ladder,” Gophers’ forward Kadi Sissoko said. “I am really confident in my team and I am not even worried about what is coming next.”

Iowa’s star players were good as advertised with 45 total points. Czinano was especially dominant, missing only three shots all game en route to a 23-point performance. The Gophers simply had no answer for the Hawkeyes, particularly in the post. Iowa recorded 48 total points in the paint, making 21 of their 28 layups.

“[Czinano] does a great job of working people out of position,” Whalen said. “She is obviously a great player.”

Clark had an all-around game of her own recording 22 points and 11 assists while matched up with Jasmine Powell for much of the game.

“She is never out of the play,” Powell said. “She is always moving and always cutting and there is nowhere on the court where you can guard her.”

Following a shutdown within the Michigan program, the Gophers will have a full week until their next matchup on Feb. 7 in Columbus, Ohio against the Buckeyes of Ohio State.

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