Clark puts up 28 points, 15 assists for No. 3 Iowa in 95-68 romp past Michigan in Big Ten semifinals

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Iowa guard Sydney Affolter (3) celebrates toward guard Caitlin Clark (22) after making a 3-point basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan in the semifinals of the Big Ten women's tournament Saturday, March 9, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

MINNEAPOLISCaitlin Clark had 28 points to pad her all-time NCAA scoring total and matched a season high with 15 assists to lead third-ranked Iowa past Michigan 95-68 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on Saturday.

Hannah Stuelke scored 16 points on 7-for-7 shooting, Kate Martin added 13 points and Sydney Affolter had the best all-around game with 12 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals as the Hawkeyes (28-4) moved within one win of a third straight conference tournament title. They're 11-1 in this event in Clark's career.

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“I pack for three days,” said Clark, who topped the 1,000-point mark for the second straight season. “That’s all we know. That’s just what we do.”

Iowa will play Nebraska for the championship on Sunday. The fifth-seeded Huskers beat eighth-seeded Maryland on Saturday to reach the final for the first time in 10 years.

With fifth-year guard Gabbie Marshall again spearheading the effort, the Hawkeyes were locked in and maxed out on defense. They quieted first team All-Big Ten pick Laila Phelia for most of the game, after her season-high 30 points fueled Michigan's upset of 12th-ranked Indiana in the quarterfinals on Friday.

That likely secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but a headline win like this sure wouldn’t have hurt.

Phelia had 21 points and seven assists, Jordan Hobbs scored 14 points and Lauren Hansen added 13 points for the Wolverines (20-13), who went just 12 for 38 on 2-point shots. Michigan made its first seven 3-pointers and after its first miss from deep midway through the second quarter already trailed 39-30.

The Hawkeyes ran up a 54-16 points-in-the-paint advantage, matched a season high with 30 assists and hit five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to finish it off and delight the Iowa-dominated sellout crowd that has flocked to see this team everywhere it plays.

“We were worried about the shooters,” Phelia said. “So we just needed to do a better job of being able to gap in and get out.”

Clark often waved her arms for an even louder roar from the fans after key baskets, adding to the energy boost the Hawkeyes have enjoyed with the tournament an easy drive from most of Iowa.

“The bigger the spotlight, the more she’s going to show up,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “She just loves high-energy games.”

After missing 12 of 14 tries from deep in the 95-62 quarterfinal defeat of Penn State, when she still became the all-time NCAA leader in 3-pointers made, Clark downshifted her outside shooting a bit and let her inner point guard loose throughout the first half.

"We pushed on offense like we always do," Affolter said.

Whether with one-handed stretch passes bouncing across the court to hit her teammates in stride on the break or with a quick flick to feed a backdoor cut, Clark's distribution game was in high gear.

“You try to keep the ball out of her hands because she’s such a great decision-maker. But she’s tough to guard,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “I don’t know if anybody’s figured it out.”

She hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter during a 9-0 run that gave the Hawkeyes the lead for good, then zipped a behind-the-back pass to Affolter — who has moved into the starting lineup after a recent injury to Molly Davis — for a 3-pointer off a break.

“This has kind of been her year to step up,” Clark said. “She does so many other things on top of that that aren’t even in the box score.”


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