THE MONDAY TIPOFF: Clark Shoots, And Runs, And A Weekend At Carver Rocked


Caitlin Clark ran, and everybody chased her.

“She’s fast,” teammate McKenna Warnock said. “It’s hard to catch her.”

It’s what Clark does in Iowa’s practices every time she hits a simulated big-time, end-of-game shot, teammate Monika Czinano offered like someone sharing a secret.

Clark admitted that yes, it’s true.

“I do celebrate stuff,” Clark said.

So when Clark hit a this-really-happened, big-time, end-of-game shot, of course she was going to run.

Her 3-pointer that rattled in as Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s horn screamed gave No. 6 Iowa an 86-85 win over No. 2 Indiana on Sunday, and sent Clark sprinting to nowhere in particular and all of her teammates in hot pursuit.

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder, though, stayed put. Dazed from the shot, exhausted from an up-and-down, punch-and-react game against the team that had clinched the Big Ten regular-season title her team had last year, and hoarse from a cold, Bluder wasn’t about to join the track meet.

“I think I said a quick, ‘Thank you,’ to God, actually,” Bluder said, smiling with the raspy answer. “I mean, that was one of those things that you just dream about, her making this shot. She’s made so many of them in practice like that.

“But that’s truly what stories are made about, dreams are made about.”

Clark was running in the same place on Saturday during Iowa’s men’s game, when Payton Sandfort made a last-second 3-pointer in the second half to send the Hawkeyes into overtime against Michigan State, part of a comeback when Iowa scored 23 points in the last 1:30 of the second half to tie the game on the way to a 112-106 overtime win.

Clark was in her practice gear, watching with her teammates as the Hawkeyes were rallying, and when Sandfort hit the shot, well, there she was, running to celebrate.

Her shot was better, she made sure to point out.

“I mean, we won,” Clark quipped. “Payton? Come on. (His shot) couldn’t win it.”

That game was in front of a sellout crowd. This one was, too. Two games in two days, with the thunder of 15,000-plus shaking Carver-Hawkeye’s 40-year-old foundation because of comebacks and game-winners and everything that went with it.

Oh, but it was so quiet when Czinano was called for a foul on Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes with eight-tenths of a second on the clock and the game tied at 83.

But before Holmes went to the free-throw line, the officiating crew, lobbied by Bluder and Clark, went to the video monitor to see how much time really was left.

The ruling was to add seven-tenths of a second, not a lot of time in the real world.

“I knew to go tell the ref and be like, ‘You have to go look and see if the time is right,’” Clark said. “And, you know, they basically doubled it at that point. There’s a big difference between 0.8.(seconds) and 1.5 for me to get a shot off like that.”

“They can go to the monitor any time in the last two minutes,” Bluder said, “and I’m glad they did.”

Holmes made both free throws — Indiana coach Teri Moren said had there been that :00.8 on the clock, she might have had Holmes intentionally miss the second free throw — then Bluder called a timeout, which advanced the ball to midcourt.

The play, Bluder said, was something the Hawkeyes had practiced — Clark would be coming off a Czinano screen, catch the inbounds pass from Kate Martin, and shoot.

It didn’t always work, Czinano said. Sometimes her screens were a little leaky.

“I remember in practice not setting a great screen,” Czinano said. “So I kind of knew that was going to have to be there. I told her during the huddle to really wait for it, let me come get there.”

“And it just worked out perfectly.”

Moren had Chloe Moore-McNeil assigned to guard Clark. But Moore-McNeil fell after the Czinano screen, and Clark suddenly had more space.

“I don’t know if she got her foot tangled or if she fell on her own,” Moren said. “I think it would have been different if she wouldn’t have been able to stay on her feet.”

“Somehow, I was kind of more wide open than I should have been,” Clark said. “I got the ball, and I didn’t have much time to find the room and try to get it off at the same time, so just hope for the best.”

The shot went down, Carver-Hawkeye rocked, and Clark ran.

The Hawkeyes snapped Indiana’s 14-game winning streak. Their chance to grab at least a share of the conference title ended with Tuesday’s 96-68 loss at Maryland, a Chesapeake Bay boat race that Bluder took blame for on Sunday, even though her players weren’t about to agree to that explanation, pointing the fingers at themselves.

Bluder wanted that game and what went with it forgotten, instead setting a new goal.

“I told the team we couldn’t be Big Ten champs, but we could beat the Big Ten champs,” Bluder said.

This was setting up to be Iowa’s biggest day. Top-10 teams, ESPN’s College GameDay in town, a sell-out crowd.

Big names and a big stage required a big performer with a big ending.

And so, Clark delivered — 34 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, and the biggest shot of all.

Everyone stayed around for the Senior Day celebration for Czinano and Warnock, but there was time for Clark to ask for more cheers.

And when the fans obliged, Clark held out her arms to embrace the cacophony.

It was time to stop running.

Photo: Iowa’s Caitlin Clark takes in the applause after Sunday’s win over Indiana. (Keith Gillett/Icon SportsWire)

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