Caitlin Clark, No. 2 Iowa struggle offensively and fall 65-58 to Kansas State

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Caitlin Clark struggled through a poor shooting performance and No. 2 Iowa failed to score in the last three minutes Thursday night, falling to Kansas State 65-58.

Clark, The Associated Press national player of the week in women’s basketball who swept national player of the year awards and led the Hawkeyes to their first NCAA championship game last season, scored 24 points on 9-for-32 shooting from the field and 2-for-16 sniping from long distance, failing to make her first 3-pointer until just over a minute left in the second quarter.

“There are going to be nights I don’t shoot the ball very well,” Clark said. “I don’t think I helped myself, not getting to the basket and taking advantage of fouls when I needed to.”

Iowa (3-1), which had been averaging 92 points in its first three games, shot just 36.1% from the field and was 2 for 21 from long distance.

“We have to understand we’re not going to shoot the ball great every game, I’m not going to shoot the ball great every game,” Clark said. “But we have to find other ways to win.”

Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said the plan to defend Clark was to throw “waves” of players at her.

“We weren’t going to guard her with one player,” Mittie said.

The Wildcats’ defense derailed anything Iowa wanted to do.

“It felt like there was really no flow to the game,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “We couldn’t get our transition game going.”

The Hawkeyes had just two fast-break points. That was Kansas State’s plan.

“We knew that this one would be won in transition,” said center Ayoka Lee, who had 22 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. “We had to have transition (defense). It fell apart some times, but we did a good job of picking it back up when it fell apart.”

“We were able to keep them from getting the easy runouts,” Mittie said. “We wanted to make that as hard as we could on them, and it was easier said than done.”

Kansas State also handed Iowa its first loss last season, when the Hawkeyes were ranked fourth.

The Wildcats (3-0), who went almost eight minutes without a point during a stretch in the second half, trailed 58-53 with 2:42 left before holding the Hawkeyes without a point the rest of the way.

“It really came down to the fourth quarter,” Bluder said. “They beat us in the fourth quarter. They beat us in crunch time.”

Lee made two free throws with 1:12 left to give Kansas State a 59-58 lead. After Clark missed a jumper, Kansas State’s Gabby Gregory scored in the lane to push the lead to three points.

Kansas State’s Jaelyn Glenn missed two free throws with 23 seconds, giving Iowa a chance to tie the game. Clark missed a 3-point attempt with 19 seconds left and then missed another eight seconds later.

“I think our team is really building trust in each other,” Mittie said. “What I learned was we could survive the bad stretch that we had, and that we have the trust in each other to do it. And boy, as a coach, that’s good to see.”

Zyanna Walker added 12 points for Kansas State. Molly Davis had 10 points in the second half for Iowa.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State: The WIldcats weren’t going to be overwhelmed playing the second-ranked team in the nation. Lee’s early foul trouble — she picked up two fouls in the first 2:15 of the game — was never a factor. “I stayed in the game, so that’s good,” Lee said.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes never got into an offensive flow, even during the second-half 13-0 run that gave them the lead. With a chance to close out the game in the final seconds, Clark couldn’t come up with the big shots. Iowa had nine assists against 16 turnovers. “That’s really not us,” Bluder said.

UP NEXT

Kansas State: Hosts Wisconsin on Sunday.

Iowa: Hosts Drake on Sunday.

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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball

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