Indiana Women's Basketball: Three Takeaways from blowout loss to #3 Iowa

Caitlin Clark scored 30 points as the #3 Iowa Hawkeyes pulled away from #14 Indiana in the second half

Iowa's Caitlin Clark (22) shoots against Indiana on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa's Caitlin Clark (22) shoots against Indiana on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. / Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen /

There's a scene in Avengers: End Game where Thanos wipes a smattering of blood from his face. "All this for a drop of blood," Thanos says before defeating Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy on Titan. The first half of #3 Iowa's dismantling of #14 Indiana felt a lot like that scene. Chloe Moore-McNeil chased Caitlin Clark for a half.

To her credit, Moore-McNeil did about as good a job against Clark as you can do. The superstar had a slow first half, going 4-12 from three. Indiana defended Iowa well; all they had to show for their defensive effort was a six-point deficit. There was the feeling that Iowa could blow it open if Clark got hot and her teammates kept scoring.

That is exactly what happened. Clark heated up in the third quarter, and the Hawkeyes supporting cast -- led by an outstanding performance by Molly Davis -- pulled away with a 22-11 third quarter. This evening's game showed how much Clark influences the game. Indiana got caught in the quicksand early in the second half and could not pull themselves out. precisely

This evening was Indiana's first Big Ten loss and the end of a 13-game winning streak. Here are three takeaways from this evening's game.

Iowa's Caitlin Clark (22) leaps to block an Indiana shot Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa's Caitlin Clark (22) leaps to block an Indiana shot Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. / Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen /

Clark Happens

There is a formula to slow down Caitlin Clark and defeat the Iowa Hawkeyes. You aren't going to stop her for an entire game. However, if you can force her to play inefficiently, you have an opportunity to keep the game close and win in the fourth quarter. To Indiana's credit, they did that for nearly a half.

The issue is being able to do that for an entire game. Clark started out slow, hitting three of her first nine shots and missing her first couple of three-pointers. However, she did an outstanding job of finding her teammates, and they responded by making baskets. That forced head coach Teri Moren to make a decision defensively.

Hawkeyes head coach Lisa Bluder schemed Clark open, forcing Indiana's guards to chase her through screens, and those guards looked tired by the fourth quarter. Then Clark started to heat up midway through the second quarter. She ended the night with 30 points and 11 assists.

What makes Clark such a marvel to watch is her feel for the game. She trusts Coach Bluder's system. When she gets to the basket and Indiana collapsed on her, she knew exactly where the open shooter would be. When Indiana bailed on the high screen, she shot the basketball. If they switched, she passed and took advantage of the mismatch.

Indiana Women's basketball
Indiana's Mackenzie Holmes (54) scores over Taylor Williams (33) during the second half of the game. / Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY

Iowa's size Neutralized Mackenzie Holmes

Indiana wants to play inside-outside. They want to get the basketball to Holmes in the paint, and give her room to work. When the double team comes, Holmes passes to the open shooter. That formula doesn't work when the double team comes. Tonight against Iowa, the double team rarely came.

The Hawkeyes are among the few teams in the Big Ten with the size to match the 6- foot -3 inch Holmes. Iowa plays two frontcourt players with the size to guard Holmes without help. Hannah Stuelke and Sharon Goodman -- 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3, respectively-- took turns guarding Holmes.

They were outstanding denying Holmes the ball when they played zone. Also, they made it difficult for Holmes to receive the basketball deep in the paint where she wanted. Iowa played four guards, so she had to get back on defense when the Hawkeyes ran. Holmes expended so much energy that she was obviously out of gas by the fourth quarter.

Holmes ended the night with 16 points and seven rebounds. She was not a factor tonight, and that has a lot to do with Iowa's defense.

Indiana Hoosiers guard Yarden Garzon (12) shoots a three...
Indiana Hoosiers guard Yarden Garzon (12) shoots a three... / SOPA Images/GettyImages

What went right...What went wrong

Everything Iowa needed to happen in order to win happened. Iowa's supporting cast came to play. Hannah Stuelke did not put up big numbers, but she did an outstanding job of defending Mackenzie Holmes. Molly Davis was outstanding, scoring 18 points. When Clark drove to the basket and the defense collapsed on her, they hit shots.

The Hawkeyes shot 49 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from the three-point line. They also hit 90 percent of their free throws.

Everything that Indiana needed to go right did not go right. They were unable to defend Caitlin Clark effectively for a full game. Indiana uncharacteristically turned the basketball over 15 times. They forced 13 turnovers of their own but only scored 11 points of those turnovers. The Hoosiers could not free Mackenzie Holmes to score.

When she passed the basketball to the open shooter, the Hoosiers did not make shots. Indiana hit just 5-20 three-pointers. Sara Scalia, their best three-point shooter, did not make a three tonight (0-4). Guard Chole Moore-McNeil had been more aggressive in the last couple of games, but she spent so much time chasing Caitlin Clark that her offense struggled.

Indiana shot poorly from the free throw line, hitting only six of 11 free throws. The Hoosiers were outrebounded 37-28. Iowa was the better team tonight, and they proved it with tonight's blowout win.