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Clark’s 28 points, 15 assists lead Iowa into Big Ten title game at Target Center

Business as usual.

That's what Caitlin Clark was saying Saturday after she and her Iowa Hawkeyes teammates had dismantled Michigan 95-68 in a Big Ten women's basketball tournament semifinal at Target Center, breaking open the game in the second quarter and turning it into a rout in the second half.

That put the second-seeded Hawkeyes (28-4) into Sunday's championship game against surprising fifth-seeded Nebraska. Iowa will be playing in its fourth straight title game, looking to become the third team in tournament history to win three in a row.

Ho. Hum?

Well, honestly, no. It's never that.

"It's special. I was walking back to the locker room with Gabbie and Jada," Clark said of teammates Gabbie Marshall and Jada Gyamfi. "I don't know how to do this tournament any other way. I pack for three days, pack for four days. That's just what we do. I feel like we always play great basketball when we're coming here."

Clark didn't wait long before giving the raucous Iowa fans in the sellout crowd a reason to cheer. She scored 28 points with 15 assists, four rebounds and two steals. She had a

double-double by halftime. By the time she sat in the fourth quarter, she had either scored or assisted on 60 of Iowa's first 81 points, and she emerged from the game the all-time leading scorer in tournament history.

If Clark had — by her standards — an off night in Friday's victory over Penn State, she was on Saturday.

But what made Iowa so good Saturday — and lethal — is that Clark was part of an ensemble. The Hawkeyes had a tournament-record 30 assists on 38 made field goals. Three other players were in double figures — Hannah Stuelke was 7-for-7 while scoring 16; she appeared to turn an ankle on her final field goal, but Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said everything would be done to ensure she could play Sunday. Sydney Affolter had 12 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Martin scored 13 with six boards.

"Man, I just thought we had some beautiful passing in the second half," Bluder said. "Just sharing the ball. It's so much fun when we play like that and everybody is getting involved."

Iowa wore down the Wolverines (20-13). Michigan hit its first six three-pointers while taking a 25-17 lead late in the first quarter. From then until halftime, Iowa doubled-up Michigan 34-17, then the Hawkeyes outscored Michigan 44-26 in the second half. They scored 54 points in the paint, 25 off turnovers, 20 off the bench, 16 on the break.

Laila Phelia scored 21 for Michigan, Jordan Hobbs 14.

"Iowa is a great team," Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "We came out in the first quarter and able to match their pace of play. We weren't able to score with them later."

And now, Iowa will try to avenge a loss at Nebraska last month. A presumed No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, Iowa would like to head into it with another conference tournament crown.

And Clark did what she does. She made 10 of 19 shots, including four of 11 threes, and had half her team's assists.

"I'll take my line any day of the week," she said.

Said Bluder: "It's just like the bigger the spotlight, the more she's going to show up. It's mind boggling when you think about it. Everybody's defensive plan is to stop her, and nobody's been able to figure out how to do it."

Those Hawkeyes fans will show up Sunday to watch their team. After all, it's what they do.