K-State upsets No. 2 Iowa, Caitlin Clark in a defensive battle

Center Ayoka Lee gets into a defensive position to stop Presbyterian. The Wildcats bested Presbyterian 69-35 Nov. 6 and defeated No. 2 Iowa in a defensive battle, winning 65-58 on Nov. 16. (Haylee Haslett | Collegian Media Group)

In back-to-back years Kansas State women’s basketball took down one of college basketball’s stars in Caitlin Clark. The Wildcats defeated No. 2 Iowa 65-58 to advance 3-0 after a nailbiter in Iowa City.

After breaking their winless road game streak from last year, K-State had another impressive showing against a top-tier program in Iowa.

Entering the matchup, the Wildcats needed to contain Clark, the reigning Naismith Women’s College Player of the Year.

The first quarter saw both teams struggle offensively. Sloppy offense plagued the Wildcats as center Ayoka Lee collected two early fouls, limiting her playing time. 

K-State leaned on its defense to find success, forcing turnovers and gaining extra possessions. While defensive pressure held Iowa’s offense to only 30 points at the half, rebounding became a glaring issue for K-State.

Clark was held to only 12 points through the half, shooting just over 28% from the field. Iowa committed seven turnovers in the half, keeping K-State within striking distance.

By the second quarter, fouls became another problem for K-State, with seven called against the Wildcats. 

K-State shot five 3-pointers in the first half, helping take pressure off Lee in the interior. Iowa’s defense through the half limited K-State’s offense in the paint, forcing turnovers and stalling the Wildcat offense.

Out-of-half momentum favored the Wildcats as they kept the score within one point. Despite the close score, Iowa took control in the third quarter. K-State’s offensive possessions fell short multiple times because of poor shots and turnovers.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Wildcats had a near six-minute scoring drought, going down by six. After a poor pass resulted in an Iowa turnover, K-State began finding their star center Lee on offense.

Guard Gabby Gregory shot poorly through most of the night, but rose to the occasion in the waning minutes. Her 3-point shot cut K-State’s deficit to three. 

Both teams went back and forth scoring, with Iowa pushing out to a five-point lead. K-State’s defense forced extra possessions for the Wildcats, and in the end, rebounding pushed the Wildcats ahead with back-to-back scoring possessions.

After a foul sent Lee to the free-throw line, Gregory expanded the lead with a jumper as Iowa failed to add to its 58 points.

For K-State, Lee finished with another double-double performance, scoring 22 points and 12 rebounds. Guard Zyanna Walker finished second in scoring with 12 points.

For Iowa, Clark struggled with efficiency but ended the night with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists. Another major contributor to the Hawkeyes was forward Hannah Stuelke who fell a point shy of a double-double.

The win places the Wildcats in a favorable position to rank inside the AP Top 25.

K-State returns at 4 p.m. Sunday to Bramlage Coliseum against Wisconsin.