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No. 6 Iowa women's basketball zooms by Evansville to set program scoring record


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IOWA CITY — Urgency isn’t the right word in week one, but the Hawkeyes' slow first quarter in Monday’s season opener was a correctable point to hammer home ahead of Thursday’s Evansville matchup.

No need to send the message twice.

The No. 6 Hawkeyes made quick work in their first of four Missouri Valley Conference matchups of the non-conference season, routing Evansville for a 115-62 win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to set the program's single-game scoring record. While the Iowa City weather completed a crazy 30-degree transformation outside, things inside were much less chaotic.

"The start was a lot nicer," Iowa standout Caitlin Clark said. "When you go back and watch the film with Southern, we realized they weren't crashing, which kind of slowed down our transition offense quite a bit. When we get to that, that is our best offense. Every team knows that.

"So I think when we executed that and played defense, got the ball inside, it just felt a lot better. It felt like Iowa basketball. Obviously last time was a little choppy, but we knew we were going to play better and run our offense a lot better."

Not that Iowa (2-0) struggled offensively in any way Monday against Southern — it just took a little bit to heat up, particularly from deep with a 0-for-9 start. That wasn’t going to happen twice. Clark drained two early 3-pointers as part of an eight-point spurt in about 90 seconds as Iowa cruised to a 26-7 advantage after a quarter.

The Hawkeyes drained five treys in a first half that saw the vintage Hawkeyes offense rock and roll with little resistance. Forced turnovers were everywhere. Fastbreak points came in bunches. Evansville completely faded from view in a matter of minutes.

"You don't score the most points ever by walking the ball down the floor," coach Lisa Bluder said. "You've got to run. You've got to play fast. We like to play fast, and then obviously we shot the ball really well. What could we have done had we shot the ball well from the free-throw line (21-for-32)? But when you're shooting 50% from 3-point range (8-for-16) — and we shot 69% percent from two-point range — those are some really, really good numbers."

Clark led the way with 26 points and 12 assists for her 27th career double-double. Monika Czinano, after taking just four shots Monday, followed up with a more characteristic 23 points on 10-for-14 from the field. McKenna Warnock added 15 points and seven boards.

With no scoreboard drama in the second half, Bluder again got an extended look at how reserve minutes might be allocated moving forward. Another strong performance from Hannah Stuelke — 14 points and eight rebounds in 14 minutes — offered a glimpse of what’s to come with the freshman standout. Sydney Affolter continues to have the biggest role change from last season as the second guard off the bench.

"They made it really easy to just come in here," Stuelke said. "It's been just like another game. Just play hard and do what we know to do. "

All in all, these first two games unfolded as the blowouts they expected to be. The known names regained the momentum they’re used to playing with, while the newbies — both to college and the Iowa program — dipped their toes in without a ton of pressure. That changes Sunday with the always-tough trip to Drake, which opened Monday with an 80-67 win over Green Bay.

The in-state matchup will provide a nice November test against improved competition. Iowa should head to Des Moines with plenty of confidence after back-to-back routs.

"You don't want to go out and beat every team by 50 points. That's not that fun. It's fun, but it's not that fun," Clark said. "At the end of the day, you want to be able to come down to the wire and beat teams when it's close. I think we're excited. Those are the games we've been working for all summer."

Dargan Southard is a sports trending reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.