CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Caitlin Clark did it again.
Clark scored 44 points and had eight rebounds and six assists, helping No. 3 Iowa pulled away late from eighth-ranked Virginia Tech en route to an 80-76 victory Thursday night in front 15,196 spectators at the Spectrum Center, the home of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.
The Associated Press 2023 player of the year showed off her full arsenal, hurting the Hokies with step-back 3-pointers, driving one-handed scoop layups, turnaround jumpers and nifty passes to beat double teams.
Clark finished just shy of her career best of 46 points against Michigan in 2022 in an atmosphere that both coaches said rivaled that of a Final Four.
Clark finished 5 of 16 from 3-point range, but did most of her damage when she drove to the basket and drew contact. She went to the line 17 times, making 13.
“They decided to call the game really close on both ends of the floor, so why not drive and make the ref call the foul?,” Clark said.
Clark put three Virginia Tech players in foul trouble along the way.
“She got fouled like 16 times, so obviously that puts us in a situation where it is hard,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said. “We were in foul trouble from the start. It really threw us off in our game plan and we got stagnant a little bit.”
Clark attempted 31 of Iowa’s 68 shots.
“There is that kind of wire that you have to balance on between Caitlin doing all of the scoring and having everyone contribute,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “So you have to balance that all of the time. But I felt there were so many key people that helped her.”
Hannah Stuelke added 12 points and Sydney Affolter had 14 rebounds for the Hawkeyes (2-0).
The Hawkeyes overcame a big game from Georgia Amoore, who had 31 points on seven 3-pointers for the Hokies (1-1). Two-time ACC player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 16 points and 16 rebounds. She suffered a cut on her head that needed stitches after the game.
Both teams entered the season NCAA championship aspirations after making deep runs in the tournament last year. Virginia Tech lost to LSU 79-72 in the Final Four and Iowa fell to the Tigers 102-85 in the title game.
Clark got off to a strong start early with seven points and three assists to Stuelke as Iowa bolted to a 13-4 lead.
But the Hokies came storming back behind a 14-2 run led by Amoore, who had 11 points in the first quarter on three 3s, including a buzzer-beater from halfcourt that ignited the crowd.
Clark continued to pour it on the third quarter, going behind-the-back at the top of the key and getting a left-handed layup to fall to help Iowa build a double-digit lead. Virginia Tech would battle back to cut the lead to 62-60 on back-to-back 3s from Matilda Ekh and Cayla King.
But Clark had plenty of answers and the Hawkeyes took over from there, going on a 14-2 tear in the fourth quarter behind Kate Martin and Sharon Goodman, who combined for nine points during the stretch. Clark assisted on two of the buckets.
Amoore knocked down a 3 from the corner to cut the lead to four with 1:12 remaining, but Clark made five throws down the stretch to help put the game away.
Iowa: Clark was simply unstoppable, scoring and creating in every way possible. But the Hawkeyes also showed that despite a lack of size, they have plenty of other talent. They outrebounded the Hokies 47-40.
Virginia Tech: Amoore showed fearlessness and grit until the end and wouldn’t let her team give up. In the end Tech just couldn’t contain Clark on a night when the officials called a lot of fouls. Still, this is a talented group that will be able to compete with any team in the country.
Iowa: Visit Northern Iowa on Sunday.
Virginia Tech: Host Houston Baptist on Nov. 16.
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