No. 6 Iowa women cough up late lead in loss at Kansas State
A chaotic final sequence stung the No. 6 Iowa women’s basketball team with a sour loss Thursday night at Kansas State.
The Hawkeyes coughed up a five-point lead in the final four minutes, allowing the Wildcats to sink a game-winning free throw in the final seconds in an 84-83 loss at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas.
Four seesaw arcs gave way to an ending full of drama. With the score tied, Kansas State’s Gabby Gregory drove to the basket and drew a foul with 4.7 seconds left. Iowa’s Kate Martin was caught stepping backward in the paint to produce a whistle. Gregory sank the first and missed the second, allowing Iowa to come back and call a timeout with three seconds left.
Iowa star Caitlin Clark tripped and rolled her ankle on the inside, but she was able to get the ball to McKenna Warnock as the seconds ticked away. Warnock found Monika Czinano, who was hacked under the hoop, but not before the horn sounded.
A review followed. Clark had to be helped to the bench. The Kansas State cheer took it from there.
Iowa had a 78-73 advantage with 3½ minutes left. Even after Kansas State erased that lead in less than 30 seconds, Clark drained a deep trey that seemingly restored Iowa’s order. However, the Hawkeyes only had two more points from there.
Clark finished with 27 points on 6-for-17 shooting, bolstered by a 13-for-16 showing at the line. Czinano added 18, but had just four over the final seven minutes.
Gregory led the Kansas State charge with 24 points and got another 24 from Serena Sundell. Sarah Shematsi added 18 on six threes.
The Hawkeyes appeared poised to take control late in the second quarter, jumping out to a 40-28 advantage with 3:53 left in the break. But the Wildcats refused to let Iowa carry that momentum into the half, ripping off a 10-0 surge that pulled Kansas State back within a bucket.
The back-and-forth action continued, with Iowa only sporadically jumping out to multi-possession leads before Kansas State answered back. Even without having to deal with Wildcats star Ayoka Lee — a second-team All-American last year who underwent season-ending knee surgery in August — the Hawkeyes couldn’t shake pesky Kansas State.
The draw to Kansas was already a special moment long before the final horn sounded. Iowa used the trip to catch up with Ava Jones, Iowa’s latest signee who is recovering from being hit by a vehicle in July.
Jones’ hometown of Nickerson is about 140 miles south of Bramlage Coliseum, which allowed her to be around her future team and attend Thursday’s game. Kansas State joined Iowa in wearing “Kansas State believes in Ava Jones” shirts during warmups.
Bluder also believes in her team. Iowa faces a treacherous non-conference schedule filled with future NCAA Tournament participants. This five-day stretch, which includes two difficult but winnable road tests, isn’t even the hardest stretch.
After hosting the Belmont on Sunday, the Hawkeyes head to the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament in Portland for games against Oregon State (Nov. 25) and either Duke or Connecticut (Nov. 27). Two top-10 home games come after that starting next month: Dec. 1 against No. 7 North Carolina State and Dec. 7 against No. 8 Iowa State.
The Hawkeyes don’t have to digest it all at once, but stumbling on Thursday raises more concerns about what’s to come.
Dargan Southard is a sports reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.