IOWA CITY, Iowa — In just the second week of the season, upsets have been the story of women’s basketball. The latest came Thursday, as the unranked Kansas State Wildcats beat the No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes and superstar Caitlin Clark 65-58.
There were losses by preseason No. 1 LSU and No. 2 UConn before the voting for Monday’s Associated Press poll. Those upsets helped boost the Hawkeyes to No. 2 behind No. 1 South Carolina to start this week.
But then for the second season in a row — almost a year to the day later — Kansas State upset Iowa. Last season, the unranked Wildcats won over the No. 4 Hawkeyes 84-83 in Manhattan, Kansas, in a game in which Clark turned her ankle in the closing seconds.
That injury didn’t cause her to miss any games, though. Iowa rallied from early-season losses for a Final Four run, making the national championship game as Clark was named the national player of the year. The Hawkeyes and Clark hope they benefit from this loss, too.
“It’s certainly one we can learn from and probably taught us a lot of lessons of how we can get better,” said Clark, who led Iowa with 24 points but struggled from field, going 9-of-32 overall and 2-of-16 from 3-point range.
It’s the first time in the senior’s career that she missed 20 or more shots in a game; her 32 attempts were a career high. It’s also the first time since Clark arrived at Iowa for the 2020-21 season that the Hawkeyes have been held under 60 points. Clark and coach Lisa Bluder credited K-State’s defense but also said the Hawkeyes didn’t play well.
“We need more people to be able to contribute, and that’s on me to get them involved in the game,” Clark said. “Especially on nights where I might not shoot the ball as great. Rely on my teammates, get them open, get them a clean look.”
Thursday’s result tied for K-State’s highest-ranked win in program history; the Wildcats upset No. 2 Old Dominion on Dec. 4, 1982.
K-State was led by 22 points and 12 rebounds from 6-foot-6 center Ayoka Lee, who missed last season because of a knee injury. Lee holds the record for most points in a Division I women’s game: 61, set in January 2022. Even though the Wildcats beat Iowa without Lee last year, her presence will be a difference-maker this season.
“Just the opportunity to play tonight made it so worth it,” Lee said of the long injury rehab she went through. “Just to pull through with the win with my teammates, be on the court, be able to celebrate with them.
“So much gratitude for everyone who stuck with me, everyone who went through the workouts with me. It just means a lot.”
Iowa has sold out every game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season, but the fans on Thursday didn’t see the same Hawkeyes team that started the season 3-0, including a victory over fellow Final Four team Virginia Tech last week. Iowa had just nine assists to 16 turnovers, and two points off fast breaks.
“I think it shows you’ve got to come in every single day and be ready to play basketball because no matter who it is, you can beat anybody, you can lose [to] anybody,” Clark said. “That’s a great thing about women’s basketball. That’s what makes it so fun. I’m just disappointed we didn’t really put on a great performance for our fans who came out and supported us really well.”
Iowa post players Hannah Stuelke, Sharon Goodman and Addison O’Grady were a combined 7-of-12 from the field (58.3%), but as a team Iowa shot 36.1%.
“They need to have more looks,” Bluder said of her post players. “We have to have more faith in them. Right now, I don’t know that we do.”
The two starters Iowa lost from last season were veteran post players Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock. Thus, it’s not a surprise that Iowa is still trying to get its timing and chemistry down, especially between the guards and posts, which Clark acknowledged.
“I felt it started off kind of rough for us and we were never really able to get our feet back under us and regain full control of the game,” Clark said. “We’re still getting used to playing with one another, but at the same time, those aren’t mistakes we usually make on a day-to-day basis. So just come back to practice and get better and get on the same page. All you can do is respond.”
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.