Chip Scoggins
See more of the story

Caitlin Clark ordinarily makes playing basketball look graceful, a beautiful ballet of flash and flair and pull-up jumpers from places on the court that should count as four points because of their distance from the basket.

Sunday brought a different wrinkle.

Clark crawled through mud. A game that looks so easy to her suddenly looked vexing. She missed shots that she probably makes with her eyes shut most days. She slammed her fist in frustration. She complained to the refs.

Those who packed Target Center expecting to see another episode of the Caitlin Clark Show were treated to something else in the first half against a tough-minded, ready-to-rumble Nebraska squad.

Clark missed all nine of her three-point attempts before halftime. She missed 11 of 13 shot attempts overall and had just four points when she ran to the locker room.

"Probably my worst half, yeah," Clark said, alluding to her entire record-setting college career, not just this season.

She then offered another equally pointed admission: her team would have lost if that same shooting display materialized during her freshman and sophomore seasons. Why? Because she needed to learn how to harness negative emotions so that a slow start or some bad shooting doesn't snowball into something worse.

The senior Caitlin understands that now.

"At halftime," she said, "I really reset my mind and let it go."

Her coach put more bluntly.

"You can maybe keep Caitlin down for a half," Iowa's Lisa Bluder said. "You're not keeping her down the whole game. There's no way."

That reality left the Hawkeyes covered in confetti at game's end. Clark's 30 points after halftime included the biggest shot of the game with her team pushed to the brink, igniting a 94-89 overtime win that secured Iowa's three-peat as Big Ten tournament champions.

Clark made 10 of 16 shot attempts after halftime, including 5-for-8 from three-point range. She played a game-high 44 minutes while being smothered by Nebraska's guards.

Clark made her visit to Williams Arena in late February look like a leisurely stroll through the park in notching a triple-double against the overmatched Gophers. She does that to a lot of opponents.

What transpired Sunday was more impressive than her jaw-dropping shooting displays because she had to grind through a freezing cold start and gritty defense with her team eyeing a potential No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

"She has matured so much mentally," Bluder said. "That goes into emotions, too."

BOXSCORE: Iowa 94, Nebraska 89 (OT)

Sign up for our Gophers Update newsletter

Clark noted that the first half "wasn't always the most fun, it was kind of frustrating at times," and she did not hide her exasperation. Superstar players possess an ability to rise above everything negative that has happened in a game when the moment calls for something special from them.

Clark delivered in her moment when the Hawkeyes trailed by eight points with a little more than two minutes left in regulation. Clark nailed one of her patented step-back three-pointers that shifted momentum.

"It gave us some life more than anything," she said. "Eight points [versus] five points seems a lot different."

She followed with a pinpoint assist on a layup. Then another assist for a three-pointer. Then she powered her way for a layup.

Clark's flurry sent the game to overtime.

The Hawkeyes weren't going to lose in overtime after playing catch-up most of the game. Especially since Nebraska was playing its fourth game in four days — one more than Iowa — though the Huskers put up a valiant fight.

"It took everything we had to win this game, obviously," Bluder said.

Nobody felt that more than Clark, who, fittingly, had the ball in her hands at the end after stealing an inbounds pass. She dribbled the length of the court as time expired and tossed the ball.

"I just chucked it," she said. "I hope some fan has it."

That would be her final assist of the game. A nice souvenir, too.