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Iowa women's basketball: Hawkeyes' stars fuel Big Ten Tournament win over Purdue


On a day when the higher seeds started the Big Ten Tournament by taking care of business, Iowa didn't want to stand out as the lone upset victim. The Hawkeyes avoided bad losses in the regular season, and now wasn't the time to change.          

Iowa, after briefly flirting with disaster, regrouped in time. 

The No. 6 seed Hawkeyes sidestepped a stunning upset against 11th-seeded Purdue, 83-72, Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The win propelled Iowa into the Thursday's quarterfinal against No. 3 seed Rutgers at approximately 8:30 p.m. (CT).

"Well, it's always good to have that first one done and over and that you survived and moved on," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "We knew this was going to be a battle because Purdue, obviously, the season is over. And that's hard. And it can really motivate people.

"But only nine turnovers. I think that's tremendous. And I just think we found a different way to score. When our threes weren't hitting, we did a great job of penetrating and then finding Monika on the other end of it or getting to the free-throw line."

After watching Nebraska, Northwestern and Michigan State mostly cruise against the league's bottom dwellers earlier in the day, Iowa (16-8) got a stronger effort from Purdue (7-16) despite its late-season sputters. It was almost a carbon copy of the Jan. 18 meeting.        

Iowa spent three quarters unsuccessfully shaking Purdue before the Boilermakers finally broke through and pulled ahead in the fourth. On Wednesday, it was three separate one-point leads, the last one coming at 61-60 with 7:37 remaining. A less daunting task than the first matchup — when Iowa trailed by six with five minutes left — but to see Purdue hanging tough had to look familiar.

Iowa's stars took their cues late to dominate. As Monika Czinano and Caitlin Clark capped off massive scoring nights that developed in different ways, the all-Big Ten duo accounted for 23 of Iowa's 27 fourth-quarter points — including 12 straight at one point.

"Anytime our guards drove," Czinano said, "they had a lot of help crashing out on the paint. So I was able to kind of relocate, and our guards were making some great passes out to me. Shots in the lane  — elbow shots or quarter shots  — those kinds of things were really open. So I'm really glad that the guards were able to make those passes, and I was able to knock them down." 

A 9-0 sprint followed Purdue's final lead. A second 12-4 run began with just over five minutes left and put the game away. The Hawkeyes' cushion grew to as much as 14 with 2:46 left before settling at 11. 

Czinano had a steady stream of dominance from the opening tip. The junior center went 16-for-18 shooting en route to a career-high scoring effort. Whenever the Hawkeyes needed a bucket, Czinano was the answer. Her reliability allowed Clark time to warm up in her postseason debut.

The Iowa freshman nearly had a scoreless first quarter until draining a trey at the horn. Clark's 8-for-21 shooting line wasn't sterling by any means, but she found other ways to facilitate Iowa's attack. Seven rebounds, nine assists and 9-for-11 at the line more than made up for a night when shots weren't swishing.

Now Iowa gets another shot at the Scarlet Knights, which it beat on New Year's Eve in Iowa City. The other game scheduled at Rutgers was postponed and never made up.

"It's got to be a lot of mental preparation," Bluder said, "looking at the scout looking at film, trying to figure out with those things versus physically going through it on the floor. Because we just don't do that. We have a 30-minute shootaround (Thursday). And that's it."

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.