Caitlin Clark bounces back from sluggish start; Iowa cruises to first-round NCAA Tournament victory

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The Iowa Hawkeyes overcame a sluggish start to their first-round NCAA Tournament matchup against 16th-seeded Holy Cross.

Caitlin Clark, NCAA Division I’s all-time leading scorer, uncharacteristically struggled to make her shots early on and was visibly frustrated. 

But she bounced back and finished with 27 points and 10 assists in Iowa’s 91-65 win. Hawkeyes guard Kate Martin added 15 points and 14 rebounds to advance Iowa to the second round.

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Iowa’s Caitlin Clark (22) reacts while playing Holy Cross in a first-round NCAA Tournament game Saturday, March 23, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. (Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA Today Network)

The eight-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers defeated the Princeton Tigers Saturday at Carver–Hawkeye Arena, earning them a spot in Monday’s second-round game against the Hawkeyes.

Clark finished with her 65th career double-double and added eight rebounds.

CAITLIN CLARK’S TAKEOVER GOOD FOR IOWA AND WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL, DATA SHOWS

The Hawkeyes went on a 10-0 run midway through the first quarter that didn’t bother the Crusaders, who were within 23-21 at the end of the quarter.

Caitlin Clark shoots the basketball

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) attempts a 3-pointer during an NCAA Tournament first-round game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Saturday, March 23, 2024, in Iowa City. (Lily Smith/The Register/USA Today Network)

The Hawkeyes then outscored Holy Cross 25-9 in the second quarter, holding the Crusaders to just 1 of 12 shooting. Clark finally got her first 3-pointer with 3:26 left in the first half, shaking her head and rolling her eyes after making the shot.

Clark acknowledged Iowa’s room for improvement after the win.

Caitlin Clark thumbs up

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark (22) reacts during senior day against the Ohio State Buckeyes March 3, 2024, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Jeffrey Becker/USA Today Sports)

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“I thought [Holy Cross] made a lot of shots. I thought they competed really well. Gotta give credit to them,” Clark said after the game. “I don’t know that we really played our best basketball. Obviously a little rust. I thought we could have just executed our offense a little better. They really compacted the paint, but I thought we responded really well. We always had an answer.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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