Iowa's Caitlin Clark has 45, critical of defense in loss to NC State

Caitlin Clark's 45 not enough as Iowa falls to NC State (1:29)

Caitlin Clark's 45 points are not enough as the Iowa Hawkeyes fall to the NC State Wolfpack. (1:29)

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- On a night when she had her fifth career 40-point scoring game for Iowa, guard Caitlin Clark lamented her No. 10 team's defensive deficiencies in a 94-81 loss to No. 12 NC State on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

"I think whenever I score 40 points, we lose," Clark said. "So it's not something I want to do."

Actually, Iowa's record in those games is 2-3, with the two victories coming last season. Thursday, Clark finished with 45 points, the most scored this season by a Division I women's player.

It was one point short of her career high and three shy of the Iowa women's school record of 48 by Megan Gustafson. Clark was 16 of 28 from the field, making five 3-pointers, and had six rebounds and four assists. But it wasn't enough.

"Only 10 [team] assists tonight, and that's not Iowa basketball," Clark said. "We could have run our offense better. We could have gotten Monika [Czinano] the ball better. Then we scored, but we couldn't get stops.

"We didn't play defense. I think it's pretty simple. We could have scored more than 90 points, and we still would have lost the game. It comes down to defense, and we know that."

The Wolfpack's victory gave the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to the ACC, which won eight of the 14 women's matchups Wednesday and Thursday. It was the 15th and final year of the challenge, which the ACC won 11 times. The Big Ten won once, and the leagues tied three times. Next season, the ACC enters a challenge series in men's and women's basketball with the SEC.

NC State moved to 7-1, with its only loss coming to then-No. 5 (and current No. 3) UConn 91-69 in Hartford, Connecticut, on Nov. 20. The Wolfpack fell in double-overtime to UConn in the NCAA Elite Eight last season and lost four starters off that team. But returning guard Diamond Johnson is now leading the team in scoring. She and transfer Saniya Rivers, who spent her freshman season last year with national champion South Carolina, each had 22 points Thursday.

Rivers was asked what more they could have done to slow down Clark.

"Nothing. I felt like I contested [her shots] really well," Rivers said. "Great defense, but it's just better offense. All you can do is respect it and get back. I definitely didn't let it get to my head. She hit one, I hit one. ... It was just a fun matchup.

"But 45? That's insane. I'm glad that we came together as a team. We had five in double figures. So, you know, you can't win it alone. I'm just glad we were the better team tonight."

NC State coach Wes Moore said he saw a lot of Clark during his time as a committee member for various USA Basketball teams she participated on.

"I admire her a lot. I think she's really turned into an all-around player," Moore said. "She'll lead the world in assists, also. She doesn't mind giving it up. She's got great vision. She can score off the bounce, score midrange, score from deep, really deep. I don't know how you stop her. Maybe play a triangle-and-two and put two on her."

Still, the Wolfpack had their highest point total in a true road game since 2011 and came away with the victory.

"We needed to see that," Moore said of their effort.

The Hawkeyes, who were the No. 4 team in the Associated Press preseason poll, are now 5-3 after losses to Kansas State, UConn and NC State. Clark, who led Division I women in both scoring and assist average last season, is now averaging 29.0 PPG, but she knows the Hawkeyes have to be better.

"We played good defense for one quarter, but you have to do it for all four," Clark said. "I thought [the defense] was pretty good against UConn [Sunday], but then we come here on our home floor, and it wasn't good at all."