By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
IOWA CITY — The emotions never felt right in Iowa’s 87-64 win over Minnesota on Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The 8 p.m. start seemed the cloud the mood anyway, but the fun of Iowa coach Lisa Bluder’s record-setting 234th Big Ten win and Caitlin Clark’s almost-triple-double was darkened with the injury to senior forward Kate Martin, who had to be helped off the court late in the third quarter.
Martin has been described as a “glue player” by Bluder, Iowa’s captain and emotional leader. So the Hawkeyes were stunned when Martin left the court in tears, unable to put any weight on her right leg.
“When Kate went down, it really shook our team,” said Bluder. “This team really cares about each other, and when one of their teammates falls … we were all concerned and I thought that really took them out of their rhythm a little bit. It took us a little time to get refocused again.”
“She’s the one we look to in hard times,” Clark said. “When you have somebody like that go down on your team, you like to have somebody step up and be there. And we did that, but at the same time it’s kind of a weird thing when you see Kate go down like that.”
“She’s one of the toughest people I know,” center Monika Czinano said. “When Kate goes down, you’re like, ‘OK, something actually is wrong.’”
Martin, who earlier this season played with a mask to protect a broken nose, was kneed in the shin by a Minnesota player. Bluder said an initial X-ray showed a “deep bone bruise.”
“I think it’s normal to kind of have that emotion, especially when you see someone who plays such significant minutes and gives such great leadership go down with that kind of freak accident,” Clark said.
Martin did return to the bench on crutches, and joined the Hawkeyes’ huddle after the third quarter.
“It made me really happy that she could be out there and could be engaged,” said Czinano, who is Martin’s roommate. “She wasn’t kind of limited back in the training room. So that allowed me to take a deep breath.”
The Hawkeyes, who led 49-37 at halftime, couldn’t get away from the Gophers — the two teams each scored 17 third-quarter points — until the fourth quarter, when Iowa outscored Minnesota 21-10. The Gophers were just 1-of-13 from the field.
“I thought the third quarter was up and down for us after that, but I thought we reset in the fourth quarter and leaned into one another, got our feet back under us,” Clark said.
Clark’s feet went out from under her with 3:51 to play when, driving for a layup, she was fouled hard by Minnesota’s Isabelle Gradwell. Clark had 32 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, but it was time for her to come out of the game, which she did moments later.
“Caitlin flirted with that triple-double, and I would have loved for her to get it, because it’s so hard to get them,” Bluder said. “But I was more worried about injury and those types of things at that point instead of her getting that triple-double.”
It was an efficient night for the No. 16 Hawkeyes (8-3 overall, 2-0 Big Ten). Czinano had 22 points. McKenna Warnock had 12 points and 10 rebounds, passing the 1,000-point mark for her career.
The biggest milestone of the night belonged to Bluder, who passed former Iowa and Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer as the all-time winningest coach in Big Ten play.
“The only thing that’s odd about it for me was C. Vivian Stringer had (the record),” said Bluder, in her 23rd season at Iowa. “As a young coach at St. Ambrose, I would come over and work at her camps and I would sneak into her practices, pick her (brain). It just seems so odd because I have so much respect for C. Vivian Stringer. It’s kind of unusual, because she was here so long as well.”
Photo: Iowa’s Caitlin Clark (right) and Monika Czinano are all smiles during Saturday’s win over Minnesota. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)