As the Michigan women’s basketball team at number 6 took the floor in Iowa City, the stakes couldn’t be higher. A win over No. 21 “Iowa and Wolverine” would secure their first ever program in the Big Ten in the regular season. Loss and elusive flag would have avoided them again.
Wolverines (22-5 overall, Big Ten 13-4) did not go against the Hawkeyes (20-7, 14-4), losing 104-80 and watching the potential Big Ten title slip away in the process.
Michigan came out of the gate hot. In the first minutes, first-year security guard Laila Felia summed up a couple of three-pointers. Senior guard Daniel Rauch and junior guard Maddie Nolan also joined the top three, bringing Wolverine a nine-point lead. But Iowa matched Michigan’s efficiency from the depths, and each team finished the first quarter 4 to 7 because of the arc.
The effective score of “Raamahi” could not be postponed to the second quarter, and their inefficiency was underlined by the drought of 6:11 minutes from the field. As Michigan splashed in the offensive, the Hawk’s Eyes, led by Prime Minister Caitlin Clark, found its way.
In the second quarter, Clark scored 13 points and gave up 4 assists when the Hawk Eyes came out ahead by 14 points in the half. Her ability to score from anywhere on the half gave bouts of Michigan defense. When pressed, Clark finds an open teammate in the paint. When Wolverine sagged, she pulled up from 30 feet – and often connected.
As the Iowa star player went to work, so did Michigan. Hillman used the Iowa front zone for the first three quarters, and it began to pay dividends. By the middle of the third quarter, central Monica Chinana and Addison O’Grady, as well as forward McKenna Warnock recorded three fouls each. Hillman finished the game with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Senior forward Emily Keeser joined Hillmon taking advantage of Iowa’s obscene forward, and the pair combined 10 points in the third quarter, reducing the Hawk’s Eye advantage to just eight points two minutes to the quarter.
But just as Michigan looked the way he could mount a return, Clark clapped back. It’s hard.
In the third quarter, Clark scored another 14 points – connecting all four of her 3-point attempts – extending the Hawk’s Eye advantage to 17 points in the final frame. The title of the Big Ten seemed completely unattainable for Wolverine.
Iowa’s leadership continued to expand in the fourth quarter. In Michigan, there was no response to the hot shooting of “Hawk’s Eyes”, and Iowa scored 16 three-pointers out of 28 attempts during the season.
Clark led by scoring 38 points when shooting 8 to 11 from depth and making 11 assists in the offensive master class.
When time passed, the Wolverines left disappointed, completely defeated. They came so close, ending a historic season, but ended the regular season with a failure, failing to capture the first championship in the program in the top ten.