By John Bohnenkamp
This time, Iowa needed a fourth-quarter run against Minnesota.
The Hawkeyes got it, and coach Lisa Bluder had an explanation why.
“You mean, like, why we started making shots?” Bluder said.
The 25th-ranked Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 88-78 on Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a far different game than when the two teams played back in January.
Iowa won 105-49 on that night in Minneapolis. The only question in the fourth quarter of that game was whether Caitlin Clark would get a triple-double — she did — and how many records the Hawkeyes would set in posting their largest win over a Big Ten opponent in the program’s history.
This game was more about just getting to the end. Iowa, playing with just eight players in uniform, led just 62-61 at the end of the third quarter, and needed an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter to get away from the Gophers.
“Well, it wasn’t the same game as it was up in Minnesota,” Bluder said. “I think Minnesota came in and played much better than they did at their place. But I was really happy with our fourth quarter.”
Iowa (16-6 overall, 10-3 Big Ten) was 8-of-12 from the field in the fourth quarter, made all 10 of its free throws, and held the Gophers (11-14, 4-9) to 17 points.
Sixteen of the Hawkeyes’ 26 points came from the inside. Center Monika Czinano, who made just 5-of-13 shots in the first three quarters, was 5-of-6 from the field.
“The fourth quarter, Monika made some buckets for us,” Bluder said. “When you make those high-percentage shots, and then get to go to the free-throw line that many times, it’s just a different game.”
Finding a way to win is something important for a team that appears headed for another NCAA tournament appearance.
“We’ve been kind of tested in the fourth quarters (this season) and haven’t always pulled it out,” Clark said. “I think that was a good test for us. That’s what March is going to be about. You’re not going to win by 20 points every single game. We knew they were going to give us their best shot.”
The Hawkeyes were frustrated at missed opportunities to pull away throughout the first three quarters.
“I think in the fourth quarter especially, and we talked about it at halftime, we focused on defense,” Czinano said. “We got more rebounds than we had been getting, we pushed the ball better. I think it all started with the defense. We all clicked together.”
The Hawkeyes have split their last four games as they’ve struggled with a short bench because of injuries. They got back guard Gabbie Marshall, who had missed the last two games.
“Like you said, it’s perseverance, how gritty and resilient we are,” said guard Tomi Taiwo, who had 14 points in her fourth career start. “I mean, if we have, six, or five players, we’re going to give all we’ve got. Some teams might be like, ‘Oh, we don’t have the legs, we don’t have the people.’ But we know we have each other.”
Clark led Iowa with 32 points, her eighth game of 30 or more points this season. Czinano had 23. Kate Martin had 10.
Deja Winters led Minnesota with 30 points. Sara Scalia had 23.
Photo: Iowa’s Caitlin Clark scored 32 points in the 88-78 win over Minnesota on Wednesday night. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)