Caitlin Clark scored 20 points as No. 4 Iowa opened the season with an 87-34 win over Southern on Monday night.
Clark, a junior guard who was a unanimous Associated Press preseason All-American, shook off a couple of early injuries to finish with a 6 of 10 shooting night. Clark, who led the nation in assists last season, had just one assist in the game, but finished with nine rebounds. She played just 20 minutes.
Clark appeared to twist her ankle on a drive to the basket three minutes into the game and had to be helped off the court. She went with a trainer to the training room, but was back on the bench a minute later. Clark then got caught with an elbow after coming back into the game later in the first quarter and suffered a bloody nose.
“Just kind of a freak injury,” Clark said. “I thought we responded well once we settled in.”
Center Monika Czinano said her teammates handled Clark’s early absence well.
“Oh we definitely had to recalibrate,” Czinano said. “But thought we did a good job of responding.”
Czinano, back for a fifth season after leading the nation in field-goal percentage the last two seasons, scored 10 points on 3 of 4 shooting, playing just 21 minutes. Freshman Hannah Stuelke added 10 points.
Iowa has never lost a season opener in Lisa Bluder’s 23 seasons as head coach, and wasn’t in danger of losing this one.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game to start the season,” Bluder said. “We know the competition is going to get better for us, and we have to be prepared for it. It’s hard to take a lot away from this kind of game, to be honest, but it was good to get some different (lineup) rotations out there.”
The Hawkeyes had a 19-0 first-half run, holding the Lady Jaguars scoreless for almost 7 ½ minutes. Southern went 11:49 without a field goal in the first half as the Hawkeyes built a 43-15 halftime lead. The Lady Jaguars scored just five second-quarter points, and they shot 21.1% from the field for the game.
“I thought we got a lot of good shots, we just didn’t knock them down,” said Southern coach Carlos Funchess, whose team was just 1 of 15 from the field in the second quarter. “They’re long, and that length had something to do with it. They forced us to take jump shots, and we didn’t make them.”
Amani McWain led Southern with eight points.
“It’s tough to defend them,” Funchess said. “They’re going to score baskets. They force you to either shut down the inside and let them shoot threes, or try to stop them from shooting threes and letting them score on the block. That’s the toughest thing.”
The Hawkeyes, with all five starters back from last season’s team that shared the Big Ten regular-season title and won the conference tournament, were sluggish in the first eight minutes before Clark got the offense going.
Southern struggled in its first game of a nonconference schedule that includes five road games against Power 5 teams. The Lady Jaguars play at No. 8 Iowa State on Thursday, and play December games at Oregon State, Texas and Oklahoma.
Southern: At No. 8 Iowa State on Thursday.
Iowa: Hosts Evansville on Thursday.