The Central Michigan Chippewas discovered some early foul trouble, and ultimately couldn’t recover in the second half, falling to the #5 seed Iowa Hawkeyes by a final score of 87-72 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday afternoon.
CMU started the game off hot, going up 11-6 in the first quarter at the 7:10 mark, thanks to Micaela Kelly and Maddy Watters going three-of-four from three-point range, but Iowa ultimately made a run with Kelly off the floor due to foul troubles, ending the quarter on a 21-9 run to put the score at 27-20 in favor of the Hawkeyes.
Kelly’s three fouls proved to be an early pain for the Chippewas, and haunted the second quarter of play, as Iowa extended their lead to 41-26 at the 5:00 mark, thanks in part to the emergence of Tomi Taiwo (7 points) and Monika Czinano (6 points) to compliment Caitlin Clark (5 points, 3 assists) in that five-minute stretch. In that time, CMU went cold from the floor, combining to go 0-of-7, and committing two turnovers which resulted in four points on the other end. After Kelly’s re-emergence with 3:18 remaining, the Chips went on an 11-6 run to bring the score at 48-37 Iowa at the half.
The third quarter would see CMU cut the gap even further, going on an 11-6 run to get within two possessions on a pair of free throws from Anika Weekes at the 5:02 mark, making it 56-50 in Iowa’s favor. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as the Hawkeyes dictated the pace and forced CMU to settle for bad shots, finishing the quarter on a 7-0 run to go up 65-52.
That run in the early third quarter was as close as the Chippewas would get, as CMU went scoreless from the 4:26 mark of the third to the 8:14 mark of the fourth, granting Iowa a 13-0 run in that span. Iowa’s Monika Czinano put the Chips away herself after CMU finally got on the board, picking up 11 points in the final frame with great post play to ensure the victory.
For the victorious Hawkeyes, freshman phenom Caitlin Clark had quite the NCAA Tournament debut, finishing with 23 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Joining her atop the points board was Czinano, who also finished with 23 points, grabbing six rebounds and an assist. McKenna Warnock scored 11 of her 13 points in the third quarter after nor scoring at all in the first half, and finished with a double-double thanks to her 10 rebounds. Kate Martin also contributed with 13 points.
For the Chippewas, Micaela Kelly’s swan song was a valiant one, as she finished with 23 points, three assists and three rebounds despite early foul trouble. Molly Davis had an uncharacteristically bad day from distance, going 1-of-7 from three-point range, and 7-of-19 overall in an 18-point effort, but proved to be vital on defense, with five steals and six rebounds. Kyra Bussell nearly collected a double-double in her final game, with eight points and nine rebounds.
The win grants Iowa admittance into the Round of 32, where they will play against the winner of the Kentucky/Idaho State game. Central Michigan will finish the season at 18-9 overall on the year.