Kaitlin Clark ranks 10th all-time in scoring as the Hawkeyes take down the Badgers

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MADISON, Wis. — They came in numbers not seen in more than 20 years, a perfect mix of yellow and red forming outside the Kohl Center about five hours before tipoff. Many were there to see the Iowa State basketball legend in person. Those supporting the home team were yearning for a thrilling upset.

Wisconsin hosted its first women’s basketball game since 2002 with Iowa State’s Kaitlyn Clark in town, and she did her best to keep the crowd a factor throughout the afternoon. Overwhelming the Hawkeye faithful eventually became a futile task. Clark — with 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists — kept Iowa fans screaming from pregame to postgame.

Despite a good opening drive from the Badgers, No. 3 Iowa State eventually pulled away for an 87-65 win Sunday afternoon in front of a strong crowd of 14,252. The win was the Hawkeyes’ 28th straight in the series dating back to February 2007.

“This is something you only dream about, and now it happens on a regular basis. Everywhere we go, we’re used to it now. We’re really going to be,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said of the crowd. “We are disappointed if we go somewhere and there are only a thousand people there.”

Given that most Iowa-Wisconsin matchups are dead by halftime, the Badgers started strong to stay within reach of this women’s basketball giant. Wisconsin took the lead with 7:36 remaining in the second quarter, up to that point keeping Clark from starting with an insurmountable advantage.

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However, she won’t stay quiet forever.

Clark’s first hat-trick of the day went off as the shot clock and game clock expired before halftime — a Jordanian jolt that comes with it right in front of Wisconsin’s bench. Considering Iowa State missed its first eight three-point attempts, the two drills by Gabe Marshall and Clark right before intermission provided the perfect push toward familiar territory.

“It helped us a lot mentally,” Bluder said. “The clock management was really good in that last minute (of the first half) as well.”

The 43-33 lead at intermission swelled to as much as 20 in the third quarter and mostly stayed there the rest of the way. The only remaining drama centered on Clarke’s continued rise up the scoring ladder. She entered needing 27 points to pass basketball greats Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore, Shameik Holdsclaw and Cheryl Miller for 10th place on the all-time scoring list.

She completed the task as only Clark can, nailing a deep 3-pointer with ease while chants of “Let’s go Hawks” serenaded this star. There was no response from the red ones.

Clarke made the exit for good with 1:3 remaining to raucous applause – right after hitting the field hard in the final minutes. Her day ended immediately after that.

“You never want anyone to get hurt,” said Bluder, who attributed Clarke’s postgame media absence to not feeling well. “I want to go back and look at that film. She’s constantly getting hit, and it’s very hard to accept that mentally. She does it day and night. I feel for her. You never want a player to get hit. “I feel pain, but it can happen in The first minute and also the last few minutes. As we move forward, I may need to be more aware of that.”

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Along with more of Clark’s dominance arrived a promising showing for the Hawkeyes. Although Hannah Stolke once again came off the bench as she did Wednesday at Iowa State, the high-flying sophomore appears to be done dealing with the injury she suffered at Florida two weeks ago.

Stuelke finished with 21 points, in one stretch with Clarke to score 15 straight Iowa State points in the second quarter. Stuelke’s performance at the line was also encouraging, going 5 for 8. The Hawkeyes will need to use all their weapons when Big Ten play resumes at the end of the month. Getting Stuelke back to her expected level is a promising sign.

“It was really good to get back to myself today,” Stoelke said. “I was a little down (after getting injured), and we talked about it. Coach helped me a lot with getting back to myself, which was really helpful. I love her for that. But it was great to get back out there today and jump. High.”

Iowa State spent Sunday flying high in a packed house. While such environments might shock other women’s basketball teams — even good ones — the Hawkeyes put in strong performances with the spotlight on them.

Dargan Southard is a sports reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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