Iowa freshman forward Hannah Stuelke has made her impact sparingly this season thus far, averaging just 6.5 points per contest in limited minutes. But when she got her opportunity off the bench in Wednesday night’s 93-64 win over Northwestern, she dominated the Wildcats.
The Hawkeyes’ reserve wing scored a career-high 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting in only 14 minutes.
Late in the third quarter Caitlin Clark, with the ball in her hands, looked up-court and flung the basketball to an empty spot on the floor, almost directly under the rim. And like a quarterback trusting a receiver to be there, Stuelke caught the ball in stride and finished the easy fastbreak layup.
“I think she’s really starting to see her potential and see where she can go,” Clark said of her teammate. “She can be a very, very good player — a very good professional player. I mean, the athleticism is clearly there. And I think me and her are on the same page a lot. The way she runs the floor — those are the players I love to play with. So, you know, I’m just really happy for her because I know what she’s capable of. And when she shows it like that. It really helps us but no, it’s awesome for her too.”
Iowa found itself in a close 22-16 game after the first quarter. Then, Stuelke began to make a difference on the glass and in the paint. The 6-foot-2 freshman dominated inside, scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds in just the second quarter. The lead ballooned to 47-32 going into the half.
“I just had to come in and be a little spark,” Stuelke said. “Today we got off to a little slow start, but once we got rolling, we were perfect.”
Part of the reason Stuelke doesn’t play more than she does — just 11 minutes per contest — is she doesn’t shoot the ball from 3. (Just six attempts with one make on the season.) But what Stuelke brings to the table is something that’s going to continue to earn her minutes.
“She’s an unbelievable rebounder and driver; we need to use her,” head coach Lisa Bluder said.
“She’s our first in at both the four and the five, and I think you could see what a great job she does at both of those positions. We’ve had to tweak a few things in our offense when she’s at four and that’s okay. We’re perfectly fine doing that.”