Hawkeye women double up as Big Ten champs
INDIANAPOLIS — Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano put on championship hats, cut down the nets and danced around with their teammates at midcourt. Again.
Only this Sunday, No. 12 Iowa celebrated with confetti fluttering in the air. It was well worth it.
Czinano scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Clark added 18 points and the Hawkeyes captured their second Big Ten Tournament title in four years by beating No. 14 Indiana 74-67 in Indianapolis. It’s only motivation to make this a weekly routine.
“We want to cut down more nets,” Clark said after being named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player. “That’s what we said last weekend, so coming here and moving on — we’re just hungry for more.”
The Hawkeyes (23-7) certainly are playing like they expect more victory celebrations.
They’ve won seven straight — the first four to capture a share of their first Big Ten regular-season title since 2008, the last three to claim the tourney title. It’s the first time in school history they’ve won both and now they’re likely to host first and second round home games in two weeks.
Sunday’s victory also gave coach Lisa Bluder her third tourney title and a record 26th win in conference tourney play. And they did it by relying on Czinano’s dominant post play as Clark struggled in Iowa’s third matchup against the Hoosiers in 16 days.
“She puts so much pressure on you because half the time she doesn’t even dribble before she shoots,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said, referring to Czinano. “So blitzing her, doubling her, we tried but she shoots so fast that if you’re late on a double, she’s going to make you play.”
Czinano cashed in time after time against weary Indiana, which was playing for the fourth straight day and logged its 13th game in 31 days.
Grace Berger finished with 20 points and Nicole Cardano-Hillary had 19 for Indiana (22-8), but eventually the Hoosiers wore down in the closest conference championship game since 2015 — and the first not to feature Maryland since 2014.
Still, the Hoosiers were within 51-48 after three and continued fighting after giving up four straight points to open the fourth.
They closed to 60-57 on Cardano-Hillary’s 3-pointer with 6:37 to go, but the Hawkeyes answered with four straight and never allowed the Hoosiers to get closer than four the rest of the way.
“I just processed the last one and now I’ve got another one,” Czinano said. “This team deserves it more than anything because we’ve worked so hard.”
Indiana: Three wins in the first three days of the tourney should be more than enough to assure the Hoosiers host NCAA Tournament games. And even though they failed to win a conference, they will take some momentum into postseason play.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes are rolling — even an off-night for the nation’s top scorer. Clark was 6 of 17 from the field and had only two assists. Yet Iowa still won, thanks primarily because of Czinano’s dominant post play.
Clark might have received the tourney’s top award but Czinano got her share of votes, too, and was selected to the all-tournament team. Berger and Cardano-Hillary also were selected to the team that was rounded out by Jacy Sheldon.
Indiana: Mackenzie Holmes and Aleksa Gulbe each scored 11 points. … Berger, Cardano-Hillary and Gulbe each had seven rebounds while Holmes added six. Berger also had four assists. .. The Hoosiers made their second title game appearance and their first since winning the 2002 title.
Iowa: Clark finished with seven rebounds. .. Kate Martin had 14 points and a career-high eight assists. … The Hawkeyes were 2 of 14 on 3-pointers. … Iowa was seeded No. 2 in all three of its championship runs.
Iowa: Will find out who they’ll host when the NCAA Tournament releases its brackets next Sunday.
Indiana: Awaiting the release of next Sunday’s NCAA Tournament pairings.