Caitlin Clark held to 24 points as Iowa upset by Indiana

Caitlin Clark puts up 24 points in No. 4 Iowa's loss (1:10)

Caitlin Clark puts up 24 points for Iowa, but it's not enough in a loss to Indiana. (1:10)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Before a sold-out crowd at Indiana's Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Thursday, Iowa star Caitlin Clark might have felt at times like most of the 17,222 in attendance were guarding her. That's how hard the No. 14 Hoosiers made things on Clark and the No. 4 Hawkeyes, winning 86-69.

The 17-point margin of defeat was the biggest for Iowa since it lost by 17 to LSU in last season's national championship game. Clark's 24 points were eight below her average and marked her lowest scoring output since Dec. 2, when she also had 24 in a victory over Bowling Green. It's her second-lowest total of the season; her lowest was 21 on Nov. 25 against Florida Gulf Coast.

A week ago at home in Iowa City, Clark had a school-record 49 points in breaking the NCAA women's basketball career scoring record. The Hawkeyes hadn't played since then until Thursday, while the Hoosiers were coming off an 86-66 loss at Illinois on Monday.

Indiana coach Teri Moren acknowledged that the Hoosiers "laid an egg" against the Illini. They came into Thursday's game believing they had to beat Iowa to help strengthen their case to be among the NCAA tournament's top 16 seeds. That's especially important in women's basketball, because those teams get to host early-round games.

"You lose a game like Illinois, and you think, 'Oh, wow, our backs are against the wall,'" Moren said. "Tonight was a step in the right direction to help secure that [host seed] for our fans.

"We made everything very difficult for Caitlin Clark tonight, and that's hard to do. She's a phenomenal player."

Clark, who was 8-of-26 from the field overall and 3-of-16 from 3-point range, said Indiana's defense was one of the toughest Iowa has faced this season.

"Being physical, face-guarding me, denying me the ball, threw a lot of different people at me," Clark said. "Kind of pushed me off my spots, got me a little deeper than I wanted to be. Threw a little box-and-one at us.

"Once you get down, you kind of have to start taking some shots that maybe you wouldn't [normally] take necessarily. I thought we maybe could have drove to the basket more. I wouldn't say we're really a team that plays from behind very much. We fought, but they always responded and had an answer."

The Hawkeyes trailed by 11 points at halftime, just the second time this season they have been behind at the break.

The loss came almost a year to the day after Iowa lost by 28 points at Maryland last season (Feb. 21, 2023). Iowa responded to that by not losing again until the NCAA final, winning the Big Ten tournament along the way.

Thursday's loss made the Hawkeyes' hopes of winning the 2024 Big Ten regular-season title more remote; they are now 12-3 in the league, behind Ohio State (14-1) and Indiana (13-3). Iowa has three regular-season games left: at home against Illinois (Sunday), at Minnesota (Feb. 28) and at home against Ohio State (March 3).

Clark, who passed former Washington star Kelsey Plum for the NCAA scoring record on Feb. 15, is now at 3,593 career points and closing in on two other records. Kansas' Lynette Woodard has the AIAW women's major-college mark of 3,649 points, and LSU's Pete Maravich is the NCAA men's record-holder at 3,667. Francis Marion's Pearl Moore holds the AIAW women's small-school record at 3,884.

Clark is 75 points shy of passing Maravich and is on pace to do that March 3 against the Buckeyes. But she said her concern now is getting Iowa (23-4) back on the winning track.

"This is a great environment to come in and play basketball," Clark said. "It's competitive, that's what it's all about. Every battle is heated when you're playing against the top teams in the Big Ten. You know, one loss, one win could switch up the standings [in] battling for a regular-season title. That's exactly how it should be."