Iowa stars ‘grateful’ for Hawkeye fans ahead of final Carver home game

Ahead of their final home game inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa stars Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin met with the media to preview their date in the second round of the NCAA Tournament versus No. 8 seed West Virginia.

Iowa (30-4, 15-3 Big Ten) will look to advance to its 10th Sweet 16 in program history as it tangles with West Virginia (25-7, 12-6 Big 12). In order to get to that destination, the Hawkeyes will need to navigate through what has the possibility to be an emotional night.

Senior guard Caitlin Clark, graduate guard Kate Martin and fifth-year guard Gabbie Marshall have combined to play in 453 games and have started a collective 400 games. That trio has Iowa as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in program history and looking to advance to the Final Four in back-to-back seasons for the first time in Hawkeye history.

While it will be a charged up, emotional crowd tonight inside of Carver, Clark and Martin are trying to focus solely on what it will take to win the game rather than the fact it’s their final game inside a venue that they’ve helped turn into the epicenter of women’s college basketball.

“Oh, geez, why did you say that? No, I’m just kidding. Yeah, it’s definitely bittersweet. I feel really grateful to have extended my time into six years and I’ve gotten to play a lot of games out here on this court, and I feel really grateful for that.

“So, just staying in the moment. And we can deal with that after the game. But first, we’re obviously focused on getting a victory tomorrow and just enjoying every single moment with our teammates, trying to have fun out there and smile a lot and just play some basketball. Yeah, I don’t think it will hit me until the season’s really over. But I feel lucky that we’ve gotten two extra home games on our home court here,” Martin said.

Clark shared those same sentiments, but also touched on what an advantage the crowd will be for Iowa if they can make it that way.

“Yeah, what she said. I would echo all that. I think the biggest thing is just being grateful. How lucky are we that we get to play two March Madness games on our home court in front of our fans and never letting that opportunity pass us by?

“Like Kate said, it’s all business. We’re going to be locked in. I don’t think any of us five seniors are going to be thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is our last game.’ I think the environment is too competitive. You’re wanting to win so hard that’s not really what you’re focused on. Like she said, I feel that’s something that will hit you either after the game or once the season ends. I think more than anything, we need to use the crowd to our advantage. Having 15,000 people that want to cheer for you, that’s huge,” Clark said.

Iowa tips off against West Virginia tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire