LINCOLN, Neb. — Iowa senior guard Caitlin Clark hit one milestone Sunday — 1,000 assists — but not the one that everyone has been counting down toward.
Clark had 31 points as the No. 2 Hawkeyes fell 82-79 to host Nebraska before a sellout crowd of 15,042 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. She is now eight points away from breaking the NCAA women’s basketball scoring record (3,527 points by Washington’s Kelsey Plum).
It was the Hawkeyes’ third loss of the season, and it was the first time that Clark has lost to the Huskers in her Iowa career.
She entered the fourth quarter with 31 points and Iowa leading by 14, but she didn’t score again as the Huskers outscored the Hawkeyes 27-10 to get the victory. That tied for Iowa’s worst fourth-quarter margin in any game since quarters were implemented in 2015-16.
«We just didn’t execute down the stretch,» Clark said, «and that stinks.»
It was the first time in Clark’s career she has played the entire fourth quarter without scoring. She was 0-of-6 from the field, tying her worst shooting in a fourth quarter. She previously went 0-of-6 in the final period of an NCAA tournament second-round loss to Creighton in 2022.
That loss had much higher stakes than Sunday’s, as it ended her sophomore season.
«Knowing our goals are still intact, there’s no reason to freak out,» Clark said after Sunday’s loss. «There’s no reason to get down on yourselves. We can we still control our destiny; that’s all that matters. Maybe it’s a good reset for our team to be able to look in the mirror and find ways to get better.»
Clark finished with 10 assists and eight rebounds. She now has 1,005 assists and is the only Division I women’s player to have reached the 3,000-point, 1,000-assist mark. No men’s player on record has hit those milestones, but that comes with a caveat that assists weren’t officially compiled as an NCAA statistic until the 1982-83 season. Women’s basketball came under NCAA governance in 1981-82.
«That’s what I take a lot of pride in,» Clark said of her combination of scoring and playmaking. «I want to be able to set my teammates up and hopefully in return that makes my life a little easier, too, of getting my spots. An assist doesn’t come without my teammate finishing the ball and obviously I played with a lot of really good players over the past four years.»
Still, the biggest thing on her mind, of course, was the loss. The Hawkeyes, which entered the day tied with Ohio State in first place in the Big Ten, fell to 11-2 in conference play. They were also a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and the NCAA women’s selection committee will reveal its first projected top 16 seeds Thursday.
That is also the next time Clark will get a shot at breaking the NCAA scoring record. Considering she has been held to single digits in scoring just once in her Iowa career, it seems likely the milestone will come Thursday against Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder had said earlier in the week that it would be great if Clark could break the mark at home, but not at the expense of losing Sunday on the road.
Bluder was visibly and audibly angry after Sunday’s game.
Three of the Huskers players — including Nebraska’s leading scorer, Jaz Shelley (23 points) — were brought into the media room before Iowa, and Bluder could be heard outside the media room saying that wasn’t Big Ten protocol and that the Hawkeyes had a plane to catch. She also was heard complaining about music being played in the arena at times when the Hawkeyes were shooting free throws.
Iowa went 9-of-15 from the foul line; Clark was 6-of-9.
Asked whether the music bothered her, Clark said no.
«I honestly didn’t even notice,» Clark said. «Whether it’s music or fans yelling at you, it doesn’t really matter. You have to be able to make the free throw.»
Nebraska moved to 16-8 overall and 8-5 in the Big Ten. Clark credited Nebraska’s defensive changes for helping stymie the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter. After the outburst outside the media room, Bluder didn’t come in to address the media but then did speak to reporters in the hallway briefly afterward.
Bluder agreed with Clark’s assessment.
«They changed defenses. I’m really surprised, against the box-and-one, that we didn’t score better,» Bluder said. «We kind of got stagnant in that situation. It’s easy to [defend] when you’re just standing there. That’s my fault. I’ve got to make them [move].»
Clark said she has not been bothered by the scoring record chase. She is much more concerned that the Hawkeyes have let double-digit leads get away in the second half of multiple games, including their Big Ten losses to Ohio State and Nebraska.
«It’s not been a distraction at all,» Clark said of the record. «… When it happens, it happens. It’s really not going to affect my life that much. I’m just going to keep going about my business as I have the last four years. Pointing to my teammates and hopefully leading this team to reach our goals.
«You can’t get too caught up in one loss. All everybody needs right now is a boost of confidence, and I know I can give it to them.»