The Ohio State women’s basketball team fell twice last season at the hands of superstar guard Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes. Now, for the first time this season, the two top 20 ranked Big Ten teams meet for one of two regular season games, starting in Columbus.
To prepare for the game, Bartt Pierce from Black Heart Gold Pants shared his knowledge of the Hawkeyes, answering a few questions to get you prepared for Sunday’s matchup. Pierce talks about the two close games for Iowa this season, including a loss to Kansas State, the status of forward Hannah Stuelke and more.
Land-Grant Holy Land: Since Michigan State took the Hawkeyes to the brink, needing a Caitlin Clark moonshot to win at the buzzer, Iowa’s been on a tear. What happened in that game that made it so close and how has Iowa adjusted?
Black Heart Gold Pants: I’m astonished with Coach Lisa Bluder. She seems to push most of the right buttons. With the fame/celebrity status of Clark, it’s all still about Iowa basketball. Iowa focuses on the game at hand. Clark and Iowa get everyone’s best shot.
Guard Molly Davis has been a spark this year. She is in her second year with the Hawks after leading Central Michigan in scoring (18.6) and minutes (35.9) in ‘21-22. Davis averaged 16 mpg last year. It takes a pretty special competitor to get their minutes cut in half but be happy to contribute to an excellent team. This year she has started 17 games and is averaging 5.8 ppg and 16 minutes.
LGHL: With Monika Czinano gone, 22-23 Sixth Player of the Year Hannah Stuelke is the favorite outlet for Clark in the paint, but she recently fell into an injury. What’s wrong with the sophomore, and after missing Tuesday’s game against Wisconsin, what’re the chances she misses Sunday too?
BHGP: Hannah Stuelke’s development has been phenomenal from last year to this. Not a surprise as Iowa’s Jan Jensen is one of the best post coaches in all of basketball. Stuelke was injured in a holiday tournament and was held out against the Badgers. It’s uncertain if she will play against the Bucks. If she does not, the Hawkeyes will need strong games from forwards Sharon Goodman and Addison O’Grady.
LGHL: McKenna Warnock was the other big name missing for Iowa, after finishing her NCAA eligibility in the offseason. Who’s stepping up in her absence?
BHGP: Sydney Affolter is a player every coach would love. She is a hard-nosed, aggressive player. Affolter has been averaging 21 minutes, 7.5 ppg, and 6.6 rebounds. Warnock was an excellent rebounder. Affolter has filled that role admirably.
LGHL: In Iowa’s lone loss of the season against Kansas State, and the narrow win over the Spartans, Clark was held to some of her lowest assist and rebounding numbers of the season. This is the million dollar question that a lot of people are trying to answer, but what do you see as Clark’s weaknesses that the teams were able to exploit?
BHGP: I honestly don’t see a ton of weaknesses for Clark. In the first Kansas State game it came out that she was battling the flu. One of her only kryptonite-ish things is her competitive nature. She will sometimes try to do too much and hit a 5-point basket. The only way to slow her down is to foul her. If you throw the kitchen sink at her, she loves passing the ball. She would be content with a 20-point, 20-assist win. It’s crazy to throw out a “terrible” game for someone to score 20 points.
Ohio State and Iowa face off Sunday at noon, with the game being broadcast on NBC. Tickets are still available for the expanded arena seating, opening up the upper deck which is usually closed off for the women’s basketball team.