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WVU, J.J. Quinerly have a date with Iowa and star Caitlin Clark in second round of the NCAA tournament

Mar. 24—MORGANTOWN — The interest in Iowa star guard Caitlin Clark is undeniable and it has spanned beyond the reach of just college basketball.

Take Saturday afternoon for example. Sitting in the Hawkeyes' press conference was a French journalist, who asked this question:

For the people who don't know you yet, who are you, Caitlin Clark, on and off the court ?

The Iowa senior, who leads the country in scoring at 31.8 points per game, smiled, took a deep breath, and replied that question had too many answers.

"You can Google that one, " Clark said. "Google it and get your answers."

"Even for the French people ?" the reporter continued.

"Even for the French people, yes, " Clark answered.

Clark, armed with 3, 798 career points—the most ever scored by a college basketball player, man or woman—will play her final home collegiate game at 8 p.m. Monday, when the top-seeded Hawkeyes host No. 8 seed West Virginia inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

WVU STATS The moment will be an expensive one for fans. According to a search on StubHub, the cheapest ticket available Sunday was $214 in the upper deck. Seats closer to the floor are going in the range of $700-$800.

"We will not have played in anything that equals what we will see, " against Iowa, WVU head coach Mark Kellogg said. "It's a passionate fan base and what they've built, and Caitlin Clark has been a big piece to that. It hasn't just been her, but she's the face of it. It's going to be special. That's going to be a crazy environment Monday night."

And this is where the Mountaineers (25-7) and their star guard, J.J. Quinerly, come into play.

If Iowa (30-4) and Clark are near the pinnacle, Quinerly and the Mountaineers are working their way up to get there.

If Clark is the known entity, Quinerly is striving to get her foot in that door.

"I hope people across the country are starting to realize how talented she is, " was the way Kellogg put it about Quinerly.

There is no better way for the up-and-comer to get that respect than by knocking down the kingpin.

That's not exactly the view Quinerly is taking into today's game.

She doesn't want it to become her against Clark, but rather the Mountaineers against the Hawkeyes.

When given the opportunity to make it something other than that, Quinerly, who had 29 points, seven rebounds and three steals on Saturday against Princeton, didn't exactly back down, either.

"I hope we can put the game away a little faster than that and we don't have to go shot for shot, " Quinerly said. "But I mean whatever happens, happens."

Keeping it close will be the Mountaineers' biggest challenge.

Iowa has already faced a number of different defenses this season with the intentions of slowing down Clark.

Few of them have worked, as the Hawkeyes lead the nation in scoring at 92.8 points per game and Clark hasn't been held below 21 points all season.

Will the Mountaineers' full-court pressure that has WVU second in the nation in steals be able to withstand Clark and Iowa's fast-paced offense ?

"It could be difficult, " Kellogg admits. "We'll go back and have those conversations and into (Sunday). This is elite. They are pretty good in transition, so we may have to be a little careful, but we'll go figure it out."

According to ESPN's power index, the Hawkeyes will enter the game with an 83.5 % chance of winning, while the No. 1 seeds are 48-1 all-time in the women's NCAA tournament against No. 8 seeds.

And then there is the Clark factor, who went through her own frustrating moments in Iowa's first-round win against Holy Cross, in which she finished with 27 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

"I think I was a little frustrated, but I feel like that comes from knowing what it takes to be where we want to be, " she said. "I think from here on out, every single team is going to give us a really good game. Every single team is basically a top-25 team at this point.

"That's what makes March so much fun. I definitely think I could have smiled a little bit more, but, hey, I'm competitive, I want to win, and I expect us to be really good all the time."

WVU vs. IOWA WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, Iowa TV: ESPN (Comcast 27, HD 850 ; DirecTV 206 ; DISH 140)

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