Nebraska steals Caitlin Clark's thunder with 82-79 victory over No. 2 Hawkeyes
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska and Iowa fans alike came to Pinnacle Bank Arena hoping to see Caitlin Clark set the NCAA women’s career scoring record on a nationally televised celebration of women’s basketball.
What they saw instead Sunday was a huge performance by the Cornhuskers, who rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat No. 2 Iowa 82-79.
Nebraska (16-8, 8-5 Big Ten) earned its first win over a Top 25 opponent this season and its first over Iowa in 10 tries. A student-led court storming punctuated the afternoon.
Jaz Shelley's 3-pointer with 30 seconds left gave Nebraska its first lead, and she made all four of her free throws to close out the Hawkeyes (22-3, 11-2).
“On a day like today, I’m just so proud to be the head coach at Nebraska and proud of this team and the way they showed great response throughout the fourth quarter and found a way to win,” Cornhuskers coach Amy Williams said.
Clark, who finished with 31 points, was held scoreless over the final 12 1/2 minutes. She missed her last six shots, including a 3 just ahead of the buzzer.
"Just didn’t execute down the stretch. It stinks,” Clark said.
Clark now has 3,520 career points and needs eight more to pass Kelsey Plum's record of 3,527 for Washington from 2013-17. She likely will break the record Thursday at home against Michigan.
Hannah Stuelke's layup with 9:22 left gave Iowa its biggest lead, at 71-57. The Hawkeyes were outscored 25-8 to end the game.
Shelley, who finished with 23 points including five 3-pointers, gave the Huskers the lead when she launched a 3 from the right corner as the shot clock was winding down.
Clark's 3-point try nicked off the front of the rim before Shelley made two free throws with 18.1 seconds left. Stuelke scored to make it 80-79, but Shelley hit two more shots from the stripe, and Clark and Kate Martin missed 3s at the end.
“Everybody’s going to give us their best shot. If you don’t know that at this point of the season ...," Clark said.
The crowd was split evenly between Nebraska and Iowa fans. "Let's Go Hawks!” chants started before tipoff.
“Coming out and seeing more yellow at first kind of scary when you’re at home,” Nebraska's Alexis Markowski said. “Husker fans really showed out. We took it as a challenge. We knew we were the underdogs in this situation. We gave it our all and came out on top.”
Nebraska kept it close in the first half and trailed just 39-35 at the break. Shelley made three 3-pointers, including two straight late in the second quarter to keep Iowa from pulling away.
Clark had 17 points in the first half, but her contributions on defense and as a facilitator were just as important. She ratcheted up her scoring in the third quarter, accounting for 14 points.
Nebraska switched Shelley and two other players on Clark defensively. The Huskers also double-teamed her up high and then went to a gimmick defense, the box-and-one, to shut her down late.
“It's something we prepare for throughout the season, but we hadn't necessarily prepared for it the last couple practices,” Clark said. “We should have been ready for it.”
An upset Iowa coach Lisa Bluder, standing outside the interview room, caused a brief pause in the postgame news conference with Nebraska players. She was angry because Nebraska players went into the interview room ahead of Iowa. Bluder took questions in an adjacent hallway while Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin addressed the media.
“We got a flight to catch!” Bluder yelled, prompting Nebraska's Alexis Markowski to stop talking and look over her shoulder. “This is (expletive). This is not Big Ten protocol.”
She fired one more salvo, an apparent complaint about game presentation in the arena. “They play music while you shoot free throws.”
Nebraska: The game was the first women's basketball sellout in program history. A few sellers on the secondary ticket market were asking as much as $2,000 for a seat in the lower bowl. The highest seats on one end of the arena were unfilled, though.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes dropped out of a tie for first place in the Big Ten with Ohio State.
Nebraska: At Ohio State on Wednesday.
Iowa: Hosts Michigan on Thursday.
Caitlin Clark needs 8 points to set NCAA scoring record after finishing with 31 against Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Caitlin Clark’s pursuit of the NCAA women’s career scoring record will continue for at least four more days after her 31-point performance in No. 2 Iowa’s 82-79 loss to Nebraska on Sunday.
The generational talent who has brought unprecedented attention to women’s basketball came into the game 39 points from passing Kelsey Plum’s total of 3,527 for Washington from 2013-17.
Clark went scoreless the last 12 1/2 minutes against Nebraska and now needs eight points to break the record. She likely will do it Thursday night in Iowa City against Michigan.
“It's not at the front of my mind right now," Clark said.
Fans began lining up in sub-freezing weather six hours before tipoff to enter Pinnacle Bank Arena. Clark has never scored fewer than 30 points in nine games against Nebraska, and many came with the hope they would see her make history.
The Huskers changed up their defenses on Clark. Callin Hake, Jaz Shelley and Kendall Moriarty took turns playing her straight up and they put double-teams on her up high and went to a box-and-one on her in the second half.
Clark pulled within single digits of the record when she made two free throws following a technical foul on Nebraska late in the third quarter. She didn't score again.
Clark missed her final six shots from the field and finished 10 of 25 overall and 5 of 15 on 3-pointers.
She opened the game with a deep 3-pointer that bounced off the rim. Her first basket was a 3-point swish on the Hawkeyes’ third possession. She drove hard to the hoop for her next two baskets and then, after going scoreless for more than six minutes, she launched a 30-footer from the left side that hit nothing but net.
She got a razzing from the Nebraska fans late in the first half when she put up a 3 that hit, well, nothing. And moments later, she got booed when she argued a call with an official.
Clark converted a four-point play early in the third quarter when she made a long basket from the right wing and got fouled. Her 3 late in the third quarter got her within 10 of the record.
The game at Pinnacle Bank Arena has been sold out since the first week of January, and sellers on the secondary ticket market late in the week were asking as much as $2,000 for a seat in the lower bowl.
Five preteen girls in an end zone section, each holding up a letter to spell out "CLARK," started a “Caitlin Clark” chant 90 minutes before tipoff.
Cheers increased in volume when Clark was first spotted in the tunnel from the locker room to the court. Fans leaning on the railing reached down in hopes of getting a hand slap as she came through. Next was a standing ovation when Clark, escorted by a security guard, stepped onto the court to begin shooting drills. She shot alone for five minutes before teammates joined her.
Kim Malone of Omaha showed up at about 8:15 a.m. carrying a sign reading, “Feels like a great day to drop a 40 piece. Let her cook. GOAT 22.”
“We're here early because we love Caitlin Clark and what she's done for women's basketball,” Malone said. “I played Division II, my daughter plays, we love basketball. To watch all these people come, it's just amazing.”
Malone said she admires the fearlessness with which Clark plays.
“She's like the closest thing to Kobe Bryant for us, and we love Kobe,” she said. “Her work ethic and her pursuit to be the greatest is incredible, but then she doesn't get lost in that. She includes everybody. Her passes are incredible. She's one of a kind.”
Nick Ames of Lincoln was the first person waiting to enter the arena, arriving at 6:45 a.m. He came to root for Nebraska and wore a T-shirt saying, “I’m Kevin O’Hare’s Favorite Cousin.” O’Hare is Clark’s shooting coach.
“I’m here to heckle today because I do not want her to get that record and just thought the shirt and bringing up him would be something to get in her mind a little bit,” said Ames, adding that his mission was to get as close to the court as he could so she would see the shirt. “I’m a Husker fan. She can get it at home if she wants it.”
Clark, who is from West Des Moines, Iowa, had never lost to Nebraska before. Her 34 points per game against the Cornhuskers is her highest average against opponents she's faced more than four times.
After Clark breaks the NCAA record, her next target will be the all-time major women's college scoring record of 3,649 by Kansas' Lynette Woodard from 1977-81. During Woodard's era, women's sports were governed by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.