Clark's maturity helped her and Iowa overcome a cold start in the Big Ten championship game

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Caitlin Clark threw her arms up in disbelief at one point during the first half of the Big Ten championship game, as if she were ready to scream at the ball for being so uncooperative.

That round orange sphere the Iowa superstar normally has such command of kept just pinballing around the rim and popping out, sometimes simply hitting the front and falling short.

The first-half stats for the NCAA's all-time leader in made 3-pointers were cringe-worthy: 0 for 9 from deep with just four points as Iowa trailed Nebraska by 11 at the break. Clark suggested afterward those first 20 minutes accounted for the worst first half of her career.

Ah, but slumps like that simply don't last for the NCAA's career scoring leader.

“I’ve put a lot of work into being able to do that and letting things go and relying on my teammates and not pressing as much,” said Clark, who had 30 of her 34 points after halftime. “Honestly, that might be one of the things I’m most proud of over my entire career.”

Clark, who set the career Big Ten Tournament record with 317 points while the Hawkeyes won 12 of 13 games over four years and became the first team in the conference to win three straight tournament titles, finished 5 for 17 from 3-point range for Iowa in the 94-89 overtime win.

She hit a 3 with 2:09 left in regulation after the Hawkeyes fell behind by eight. She drained the dagger from deep with 51 seconds remaining to give them the lead for good at 89-87.

Clark was 11 for 42 in three games this week, including a 2-for-14 quarterfinal against Penn State on Friday when she was 0 for 6 in the first half. Iowa easily overcame that cold start by the reigning AP Player of the Year and won 95-62.

“To be honest, I don’t think we win those if you have freshman and sophomore Caitlin,” Clark said. “I was never able to let it go and move on to the next. That was really something I always struggled with and something I knew I had to get better at.”

Coach Lisa Bluder and her staff have helped Clark with that, as has fifth-year guard Kate Martin.

“She is passionate. She had to learn how to play with emotion but not so much that it took her over the edge,” Bluder said. “You can’t let other people take you out of your game.”

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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball