MINNEAPOLIS — When the Iowa State women’s basketball team was buried on a Feb. 21 trip to Maryland, there was little positive to take from a forgotten night in College Park.
However, there was one key development in that 28-point loss: Iowa’s Gabe Marshall hooked up to 5-of-10 from the 3-point range and scored 15—a season-high breakout in what was a season’s worth of shooting struggles. Senior guard from Cincinnati.
Arguably, the Marshall recession is a thing of the past. And this time against Maryland, with the greater stakes, she had one of the most impactful games of her career.
Marshall managed seven 3-pointers—including a go-ahead hit with 1 minute, 44 seconds remaining—to lift the second-seed Hawkeyes to an 89–84 win over third-seed Maryland in the semifinals of the grand slam before 9,375 fans. in the center of the target.
“Leaving Gabe alone wasn’t a great thing for them to do,” Iowa star Caitlin Clark grinned after leading the Hockey League to their third straight Big Ten championship game. The Hawkeyes take on fourth-ranked Ohio State, which upset Indiana, at 4 p.m. Sunday on ESPN. “Proud of her for taking that shot.”
Marshall finished with a season-high 21 points shooting 7-for-13 from long range, each triple seeming bigger than the last. Goal center erupted when Buried in the right corner 3 pushed Iowa’s lead to 76-68 deep in the fourth quarter. With Maryland tied at 79-79, Marshall’s 7th and final 3 was the biggest. Clark missed 3 as the shot clock expired, but McKenna-Warnock poked between two Terrapins to grab the offensive rebound. I flipped a pass to Marshall, who lifted the size 3 from the right of the switch and flicked it.
“She kept believing in herself. She kept working hard in the gym. I couldn’t be prouder of anyone,” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. “The faith this team has in this woman is incredible.”
Marshall has always been a 3-point ace for the Hawkeyes. I got 37.4% as a freshman, 47.1% as a sophomore and 39.3% as a freshman. But over 22 matches this season, she’s been shooting the clip 16-for-75 (21.3%) from 3. In the last nine matches, she’s settled for 24-for-41 from long range tries (58.3%). , up its season percentage to 34.5%.
She’s now up to 3s in size (including four in Friday’s win versus Purdue), which is a huge development for the 25-6 Hawkeyes. Marshall is also one of the best defensemen in Iowa and played a team high 39:21. With her help, Iowa tied a tournament record with 15 three-pointers made (on a tournament record of 40 attempts).
“When you struggled like I did in the beginning… I knew I had to start making shots in order to open things up,” Marshall said. “I’m glad I can do it for the team now. I’m not worried about what I shoot from 3, but I’m happy to help the team in this way.”
The balanced score sheet shows just how dangerous Iowa is.
With Maryland chasing Clark by one defense at College Park and again on Saturday, it’s imperative that the Hawkeyes’ supporting cast come through.
Even in Iowa’s 96-82 home win against Maryland on February 2, three players—Clark, Monica Czenano, and Hannah Stoelke—scored all but 13 points. At College Park in the 96-68 loss, Chinano went 2-for-5, Kate Martin 2-for-7 and Warnock 3-for-14.
The Hawkeyes finally got the overall box points they wanted against the Terrapins…and the kind of baselines you’d like to see the rest of the postseason so opponents can’t get into Clark.
Warnock equaled Marshall’s 21 points (18 in the second half, including 4-for-4 from the line in the final minute) and eight rebounds. Martine was a triple-double and had 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in her latest performance in the big games. Chinano scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
The only downside on Saturday? Iowa did not get bench points. But Bluder mostly stuck to five basics.
“You can take Monica and me, but when the other three play like they did and we have other people sitting on the bench and contributing, there’s only so much you can do,” Clark said. “We scored 89 points, and you’re basically selling players.
“It’s something we’ve been working on in practice since we saw it when we went there, and some other teams have tried it as well. But I think our level of confidence in what we have now is really good. We’ll welcome any defense any team wants to throw at us.”
Caitlin Clark is now 8-1 in Big Ten Tournament games.
The sexy little ranger came to play in this one, as you would expect. She downed her first three 3-point attempts, including one from logo-distance range, and played to the raucous crowd as Iowa cruised with a score of 21-9.
“You have to give credit to Caitlin. She’s so motivated, that loss they had in our place,” Maryland coach Brenda Freese said, describing this game as a road game. “When you’re competitive, I think it makes a statement and sets the tone, as all great players do.”
Clark finished with 22 points, nine assists, and perhaps more importantly, only made two turnovers. It was rated 14 combined courses in the two previous meetings versus the Terps.
After the game, a Maryland reporter asked Clark about reaching the Big Ten title for the third year in a row. She answered with four words.
“That’s all I know,” she said.
Martin, Marshall, and even Bluder laughed at the drop mic response.
It’s no wonder Clark is making her way into Big Ten championship history. With 61 assists in those nine tournament games, she needs just seven more to break the career mark held by Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis (67 in 11 games from 2009-12). Something to watch on Sunday. Her 224 points is fourth in Big Ten tournament history. Next year she’ll need to break the mark of 265 set by Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell. (Or will she?)
There was a scary moment with Clarke about a minute before half-time. She was running back in a quick break and aggressively connected with Maryland star Diamond Miller (who enjoyed the excitement of the pro-Hookie crowd). A shipment was called, and Clark writhed on the floor in pain. Turns out she was trying to catch her breath. Knock down the strong wind from it.
She had a brief stint off the bench and returned to make sure Iowa led 47-42 at halftime.
“Diamond is a really good player. You see her come full force to you, that’s not a great spectacle,” Clark said with a smile. “It’s probably the first assignment I’ve ever had in my career. For that.”
A foul call could have been really costly.
And Iowa appeared to have the game in hand, taking an 85-81 lead with the ball on the court and 35 seconds left in the game. As Martin looked to enter the pass, Miller slapped the ball very clearly—in front of dozens of courtside reporters—but no official saw the offense. It should have been a technical foul on Maryland. In the aftermath, Clark was called for an offensive foul while trying to open up—thus giving the ball to Maryland, which quickly cut the gap to 85-84 on a Lavender Briggs 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the game.
“That should have been technical,” Clark said, while Martin nodded in agreement. “I don’t know whose fault it was, me or (Marshall). I mean, I didn’t touch it. I don’t know what he saw. He called it behind me. It’s a tough call at the end of the game. But I thought we responded well, that’s all you can do. He’s not going back and changing The Call “.
After a hard inbound pass with the lead by one point, Warnock was hit with the loose ball and made two free throws for an 87-84 lead. Iowa played excellent defense and forced a tough 3-pointer with 8 seconds left by Abby Myers. Warnock increased the final margin with two more free throws.
Had the Hawkeyes lost this game, this missed technical foul would have formed the main story line. Thanks to Iowa’s resilient finish, it was an understated hem.
Is it the #1 seed in NCAA tournament play?
Bluder wasn’t really in the mood to discuss the possibility of Iowa climbing the starting line with a potential win over Ohio State, understandably so.
“They’re smart,” Bluder said, “and they’ll know what that really means (for the distribution), but for them, playing for the championship is really important. And that’s first and foremost on our minds right now. We don’t think about the NCAAs.”
But this does not mean we I can’t talk about it.
On Saturday, ESPN bracket expert Charlie Cream — who has a great track record with this stuff — listed Iowa as the No. 2 seed in the same region as seeded South Carolina. Meanwhile, Indiana and Maryland ranked first in their respective regions after Utah’s upset quarterfinal loss to Washington State in the Pacific 12 tournament on Friday. Creme dropped Utah to No. 2 seed, and on Saturday No. 2 seed (LSU) suffered a loss to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament.
This win over Maryland should also be enough for Iowa to overtake the Terrapins on the overall baseline. Iowa has won two of three against Maryland this season and has a better NCAA NET rating. And while second seed Indiana deserves to stay in the top line with just three losses, can the Hawkeyes fight their way to #1 as well? The argument might be possible, especially since Iowa has added to its program’s record with its fifth win against a top-10 AP opponent, if the Hawkeyes beat the Buckeyes for the second time.
But even if Iowa remains #2, the hope must have played their way out of the South Carolina region (with the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight scheduled for Greenville, South Carolina). That would be an unfortunate draw at this point.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 28 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY, and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.
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