Northwestern falls in a heartbreaker to No. 23 Iowa

By Logan Schiciano

Northwestern women’s basketball surrendered a 14-point third-quarter lead and lost to the No. 23 Iowa Hawkeyes in heartbreaking fashion Friday, 72-67 in overtime.  

There was a buzz in Welsh Ryan Arena from start to finish as the two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Veronica Burton squared off against last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year Caitlin Clark for possibly the final time. 

The Northwestern defense stifled the Hawkeyes early, limiting them to just 11 first-quarter points. The Wildcats led by two after the opening period and grew their lead to eight early in the second. Freshman Melanie Daley provided a spark off the bench, nailing her first three shots. 

Both teams were off from deep, going a combined 4-22 (18%) from the arc in the first half, but Iowa made up ground by outrebounding the undersized ‘Cats. Center Monika Czinano tallied points in the second quarter and had 24 for the game, along with a career-high 16 boards. Still, Northwestern led by three at halftime. 

“We played great defense in the first half,” Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown said. “I thought we were ready to make a run offensively, so I told them to push the ball.”

That run came right as the third quarter began, as the ‘Cats opened the period outscoring the Hawkeyes 15-4. The stretch included back-to-back threes by Burton and Laya Hartman. After a Hartman layup, Northwestern’s lead ballooned to 14. But after that, the ‘Cats went scoreless in the final 5:28 of the period and the Hawkeyes chipped away once again, pulling within five by the quarter’s end.

The fourth was tight throughout, with the team’s trading buckets down the stretch. A Caitlin Clark jumper with 6:18 left put her team up 52-50 – the Hawkeyes’ first lead of the game. Its biggest lead of regulation was four with less than two minutes to play, but this time, it was Northwestern who stormed back. Jillian Brown hit a pair of free throws, and on the next possession, Daley hit a long corner jumper to knot the teams at 61 with 33 seconds remaining. 

Iowa let the clock run down to within single digits before Clark drove inside and missed a pullup shot for the win. Then, things got wild. 

Brown secured the rebound off of Clark’s miss and quickly fired a pass ahead to Hartman who laid it in. It looked like Northwestern had won the game, but the play went to a review and the basket was called off. Iowa Head Coach Lisa Bluder explained what she was told by the officials. 

“They said there was an inadvertent whistle which stopped the clock. When they went back and timed it, they realized that the shot would not have went off in time,” Bluder said. McKeown did not comment on the development postgame. 

So instead of a Northwestern buzzer-beater, fans got free basketball. 

With the ‘Cats up one in overtime, Clark hit the biggest shot of the game – a three from the left-wing that gave Iowa a two-point advantage with 66 seconds left. Northwestern never regained the lead and Iowa went on to win by five. 

After the game, Clark talked about her mindset in crunch time. 

“I’m the type of player that’s going to take that shot no matter what,” she said. “I made a little move and got some separation and knocked it down.”

Clark overcame 11 turnovers to finish with 28 points, outdueling Burton who had 19, seven assists and six rebounds. Hartman had a career-high 14 points and Daley chipped in 13. Burton also moved to seventh all-time in the Big Ten in steals with 352 for her career. 

The contest was a revenge game for Iowa, who lost at home to the ‘Cats earlier this year and were 0-3 against Northwestern in the last two years prior to last night. 

“It feels good to get that monkey off our back,” Clark said. “I think they still made it super challenging on us tonight and we really had to earn it.” 

With the win, Iowa is now 7-0 since falling to Northwestern on Jan. 6 and is averaging over 90 points per game during that span. Northwestern has gone in the opposite direction, losing five of its last six games. 

Despite the loss, McKeown saw a big improvement from his team on Friday.

“I thought we did a great job. Part of me feels like we deserved to win the game, but you gotta finish,” he said. 

The Cats will hit the road next week for a two-game trip that starts Thursday against Purdue.