This was not a game for the faint of heart. It was a physical, knockdown battle of wills. Carver-Hawkeye Arena was rocking Monday night, perhaps louder than I've ever heard. The crowd willed this Iowa team to victory, and sent an amazing group of seniors off to the Sweet 16!

West Virginia was known for their defense, and it was up and in Iowa's face all night long. Every time Iowa would go on a run, the Mountaineers would answer. And despite being known as the highest-scoring team in college basketball, it turns out these Hawkeyes play a little defense of their own. Gabbie Marshall had another key block in the 4th quarter and Sydney Affolter's three-point play with 2 minutes remaining put Iowa up for good.

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Caitlin Clark, playing her final game in Iowa City, led Iowa with 32 points. She was roughed up all night, at one point having to clean up blood from a cut on her knee. But there was no way she would allow fellow seniors Kate Martin, Marshall, Molly Davis, and Sharon Goodman to go out with anything other than a win.

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Much had been made about Clark's behavior in Iowa's win over Holy Cross. Even her own dad took issue. Clark seemed a bit more reigned in on Monday but still had plenty to say to the refs. While I'll admit I'd like to see less of it, that is what comes with being a fierce competitor. She is fighting to win the entire game, and doing whatever she needs to to win.

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The Hawkeyes would eventually put the game away with free throws. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that Iowa shot 25 of 30 from the charity stripe. Iowa 64, West Virginia 54. Affolter scored 13 for Iowa. Hannah Stuelke had 12 points and 11 rebounds while Kate Martin scored 7 points and added 10 rebounds. Gabbie Marshall didn't score but played amazing defense the entire game.

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Once the game was over, you could feel a sense of relief and joy among the Iowa players. They had gone out winners. There would be no upset at Carver this season. And the crowd didn't leave. They stood and said thank you to an amazing group of players that we won't see the likes of for years to come. Caitlin Clark said her thank you to the fans too.

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She walked around the court hugging teammates and coaches, and flashing a heart sign to the adoring fans. Then as she left the court, she did what she had done the entire season. She stopped to see the fans, most of them young girls hoping to catch a glimpse of their hero.

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And suddenly it's over. The fans begin to leave. Players and coaches head to the locker room. The press begin making plans to head to Albany next week for the Sweet 16. But there is one more photo that Caitlin Clark needs before she leaves. One last photo on the court with her parents, who sacrificed so much to get her there. One last time on the court at Carver.

Iowa will face Colorado in the Sweet 16 on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Iowa time. I have a feeling that while the game won't be at Carver, we'll still see plenty of black and gold in the crowd. LET'S GO HAWKS! 

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