SAN ANTONIO — Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark finished with 35 points after outscoring Kentucky on her own in the first half, and the fifth-seeded Hawkeyes advanced to the women’s NCAA Sweet 16 with a 86-72 victory Tuesday.
The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes (20-9) scored the game’s first 11 points and led throughout to advance past the second round for only the third time in their 14 NCAA appearances during coach Lisa Bluder’s 21 seasons. They went to the Elite Eight in the last tourney two years ago before losing to eventual champion Baylor.
Two-time AP All-American guard Rhyne Howard finished with 28 points to lead the Wildcats (18-9). She was 1 of 7 shooting in the first half, but finished 8 of 21 with five 3-pointers, along with eight assists.
After fourth-seeded Kentucky finally got its first basket of the game, Clark passed ahead to Monika Czinano for a breakaway layup. Surrounded by defenders later in the first half, Clark whipped a cross-court pass to McKenna Warnock wide open on the left wing for a 3-pointer that made it 44-20.
A second-team AP All-American who entered the game as the national leader with 26.5 points per game, Clark finished 13 of 21 from the field with six 3-pointers, along with seven rebounds and six assists. Czinano added 14 points and Warnock 10 as the Hawkeyes shot 57% (35 of 61) from the field, including 53% (10 of 19) from beyond the arc.
Iowa led 49-22 at halftime of the River Walk Region game. Clark got the last of her 24 points before the break on two free throws with 3 seconds left.
Dre’Una Edwards added 16 points for Kentucky, and Jazine Massingill had 10.
Iowa will play No. 1 seed UConn or No. 8 Syracuse in the Sweet 16.
Like Iowa, the biggest run for Kentucky was 11 points in a row. The Wildcats’ long spurt came in a 2 1/2-minute span in the third quarter that included six consecutive made free throws. When Massengill’s layup capped it, they were still down 55-39. Iowa responded with a 3-pointer by Warnock and a three-point play by Clark.
Iowa entered the game ranked dead last in scoring defense — 336th out of 336 teams — allowing 80.2 points per game. The Hawkeyes were 315th in field goal defense at 44.5%. Kentucky shot only 21.6% in the first half (8 of 37) and finished 35.1% (26 of 74).