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Grotz: Official bashing detracts from accomplishments of Clark, Iowa

You couldn’t ask for a better ambassador of women’s basketball than Caitlin Clark, whose immense skills shooting, passing, and rebounding have catapulted Iowa into the NCAA championship game.

Clark is Larry Bird without the trash talk, Steph Curry minus the mouthguard, LeBron James without the ego. She signs autographs and poses for selfies with kids and fans like Jason Kelce and Brandon Graham.

Yet Clark is marginalized by critics who would like you to believe she isn’t as accomplished as her inarguable talents and that there is a conspiracy to make her look good and keep her playing in the one-and-done NCAA tournament to jack up the TV ratings that she has sent soaring to record levels.

The devaluation gets worse with each Iowa victory. Take the 71-69 win over UConn in the Final Four Friday. It takes pure hate to suggest an offensive foul decided a game in which Clark brilliantly rallied the Hawkeyes from an 11-point first-quarter deficit to a 10-point lead in the second half to put UConn on the ropes, and finally, produce a dramatic victory. The Huskies sent defenders at Clark in waves in a bid to wear her down, a strategy that worked in the first half but not during money time. Clark played every minute and finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Hannah Stuelke stepped up with 23 points.

I don’t have much sympathy for officiating bashers to begin with, knowing full well there are plenty of opportunities to win games. Officiating complainers are a dime a dozen. There are so many whiners on so many levels there’s a shortage of officials, particularly at the youth level.

For me, there is less tolerance when officials get ripped for an obvious call so-called experts say shouldn’t have been called at that time in the game, as if that’s the deciding factor. That pretty much was the tactic to steal the thunder from Clark, Stuelke and Iowa.

There is no justification for the illegal screen that Aaliyah Edwards set on Gabbie Marshall directly in front of an official. Edwards was moving, her elbow popped out and she sent Marshall flying. Why would you do that in that part of the game? The resulting turnover with three seconds left was one of many mistakes made by the Huskies.

Clark and Iowa won the game, it was a dramatic finish and truth be told, if you want to whine about the officiating rewind the film another minute and there was Edwards fouling Stuelke to get a change of possession. Edwards slapping Stuelke on the arm to jar the ball loose and a split second later held her opponent to keep her from the loose ball. UConn turned that into a three-point shot that got them within two points of the Hawks.

Yet here was basketball icon LeBron, the King of complaining about officials, tweeting on X that “NAAAAHHHHH!!! I ain’t rolling with that call.” Anybody remember the last call James rolled with? And there was Andraya Carter, the ESPN analyst minimizing the skill Clark and the Hawks played with, a style that was so effective it made UConn play catchup, by saying “It’s about the call that the referee made.

“Maybe there was a slight lean, maybe Aaliyah Edwards’ elbow was slightly out,” Carter said on ESPN. “But to be honest calls weren’t even on both sides. There were missed calls for Iowa, there were missed calls for UConn.”

The officials assessed 18 fouls to UConn, nine to Iowa. It’s become increasingly clear in this tournament that teams want to play Clark as physically as possible to wear her down. That comes at a cost.

What is borderline infuriating is just what is it about Clark that sets off such jealousy? Her popularity? Her skills? There was a huge debate when she broke Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring record earlier in the season. Maravich, of course, didn’t play in an era with three-point shots.

Forget about the scoring record and the interest it generated in women’s hoops, which may never have been higher. Why would anybody want to tear down such a talented representative as Clark, who has done so much to grow women’s basketball? Why in the world would LBJ suddenly weigh in on college officiating?

When you disregard performance with the loser “bad call” argument that can be disputed simply by looking at replays (make no mistake, the official who called the foul had the best view), you are bashing Clark and an Iowa team that did nothing to deserve that. To her credit, UConn star Paige Bueckers would not go down that ridiculously wrong road.

“Everybody can make a big deal of that one single play,” Bueckers said. “But not one single play wins a basketball game or loses a basketball game. We should have done a better job. I should have done a better job of making sure we didn’t leave the game up to chance like that.”

Contact Bob Grotz at rgrotz@delcotimes.com


Source: Berkshire mont

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