UConn threw every little thing it had at Caitlin Clark. Her teammates lifted her up when she wanted it most.

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By Calvin S. Nelson

CLEVELAND — Kate Martin has felt peaceable all through the NCAA event. The fourth quarter of a tie recreation towards 11-time nationwide champion Connecticut within the Closing 4 was no completely different.

It didn’t matter that she hadn’t shot the ball effectively, or that she dedicated a number of dangerous turnovers. Nor did it matter that Caitlin Clark, the celebrity most view as Iowa’s hero, wasn’t hitting transition 3s in droves. Martin knew their season wasn’t going to finish as a result of this staff is assured in itself, one another and Iowa basketball.

“We stayed actually level-headed. We stayed poised,” Martin stated. “As a result of we’ve been in robust conditions earlier than and we all know that we are able to rating in a rush when we have to.”

Additionally they know the staff is greater than Clark, a lot as head coach Lisa Bluder stated 30 hours prior. That proved prophetic as Clark needed to work onerous for what’s, by her requirements, a modest evening of 21 factors, 9 rebounds, seven assists and 4 turnovers in a 71-69 win over UConn.

“Going to the nationwide championship recreation, all people’s stepping up,” Clark stated. “It isn’t simply me. It isn’t only one participant. That is not what that is. We would not be at this level proper now if it was only one participant. And all people comes up and makes actually large performs after we want them.”

Iowa basketball is Martin hitting robust pictures within the fourth quarter after she struggled within the first three. It’s Sydney Affolter stepping up after serving as a sixth participant all season, snagging the offensive rebound that sealed a repeat berth within the nationwide championship recreation. It’s Gabbie Marshall making every little thing robust for former Naismith winner Paige Bueckers. And it’s Hannah Stuelke setting them on the correct course early by main the scoring assault.

“In case you had given me the stat sheet with out the ultimate rating earlier than the sport, I might have stated we gained the sport,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma stated.

Iowa's Hannah Stuelke helps up Caitlin Clark during their win over UConn on Friday. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Iowa’s Hannah Stuelke helps up Caitlin Clark throughout their win over UConn on Friday. (Jason Miller/Getty Photographs)

Stuelke hit all three shot makes an attempt for six factors within the first half to maintain Iowa in competition as Clark struggled from distance and was 3-of-11 with only some layups. The sophomore completed with a team-high 23 factors capturing 9-of-12. It was solely the second time since Feb. 12, 2023, {that a} participant aside from Clark led the staff in scoring. That different time was Stuelke’s 47-point recreation in February.

“She did an incredible job of getting us buckets when a few of us guards had been struggling to attain at occasions,” Martin stated. “I assumed she did an excellent job taking them off the bounce and ending across the rim.”

Iowa entered the half trailing by six regardless of a poor first half and tied the sport at 51 heading into the ultimate 10 minutes. Stuelke made a layup and Clark hit a step-back 3, a rarity on this one, to go up by 5. It stayed round a one-possession recreation till Stuelke scored in transition off a turnover and Martin took over, hitting robust turnaround jumpers within the paint. She had six factors within the fourth after scoring 5 over the primary three quarters.

“Kate Martin, what a warrior,” Bluder stated. “That child, she was not going to be denied in that fourth quarter.”

Affolter made key performs all through, however none greater than securing an offensive rebound off a uncommon free throw miss by Clark to lastly end the sport.

“We by no means had any doubt in our thoughts and we simply stored pushing and pushing,” Affolter stated. “We stored our head down and we executed effectively within the second half.”

Marshall performed one other stable defensive recreation on a celebrity. Bueckers scored 17 factors whereas capturing 7-of-17 and going 3-of-8 on 3s. She had 4 rebounds, three assists and 4 turnovers.

“She would not get sufficient credit score,” Bluder stated. “She guards top-of-the-line gamers within the nation and actually challenges her fairly a bit.”

Iowa's Gabbie Marshall looks on after drawing a crucial foul against UConn's Aaliyah Edwards in the final seconds of Friday's Final Four game. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)Iowa's Gabbie Marshall looks on after drawing a crucial foul against UConn's Aaliyah Edwards in the final seconds of Friday's Final Four game. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall seems to be on after drawing an important foul towards UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards within the ultimate seconds of Friday’s Closing 4 recreation. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Photographs)

Confidence is the phrase Iowa gamers most frequently use about one another and for one another: instilling confidence in Stuelke that she will be able to play with the very best posts within the nation; confidence that Marshall will make a ultimate defensive play if wanted; and confidence that the gamers round Clark are simply as succesful.

And for Martin, confidence that Iowa would make it to the ultimate day of practices allowed by the NCAA this season. Assistant head coach Jan Jensen stated she’s seen the peacefulness in Martin, who needs to be a coach, throughout this postseason and so they have lengthy had enjoyable with the actual fact they need to maintain working towards.

“I believe the overriding factor in my view, I believe the staff feels just like the coaches do, [that] you need to win since you need the entire prize, however you actually don’t desire it to finish,” Jensen stated. “And when that may inspire you alongside, it’s only a particular group.”

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