UConn, Iowa cruise into Phil Knight Legacy final clash

Nika Muhl bounces no-look dime for a UConn bucket (0:16)

Nika Muhl bounces no-look dime for a UConn bucket (0:16)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Two of the nation's top women's basketball players will meet here Sunday when Azzi Fudd and No. 3 UConn take on Caitlin Clark and No. 9 Iowa in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament.

Clark, the reigning Big Ten player of the year and unanimous preseason All-American, had 28 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and no turnovers Friday as the Hawkeyes beat Oregon State 73-59. Earlier Friday, UConn defeated Duke 78-50. Fudd had 14 points after averaging 30 in her first three games, but the Huskies had more than enough firepower alongside her.

UConn-Iowa will be one of two top-10 women's matchups at Portland's Moda Center on Sunday. In the Phil Knight Invitational final, No. 5 Iowa State meets No. 8 North Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

The last time the Huskies and Hawkeyes met was in the 2021 Sweet 16 in San Antonio, where UConn won 92-72. That high-profile matchup was also televised on ABC and pitted the nation's top two freshmen at that time, Clark and UConn's Paige Bueckers.

The Huskies are a very different team now, including Bueckers being sidelined for this season with a knee injury, whereas the Hawkeyes have the same starting five as they did in 2021. Clark, who led the nation in scoring and assists per game last season, said she relishes these types of games. In the 2021 regional semifinal, she finished with 21 points and five assists, while Bueckers had 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

"I don't look at it so much as a rematch, I just think it's great for our game," Clark said of facing UConn. "It's disappointing Paige can't play, but I know she's going to come back stronger than ever. She's that type of person and that type of player. It stinks that she's not in our game right now because she is so good for our game. People love to watch her. She brings an exciting style of basketball.

"But UConn is really, really, really good even though they don't have her. Azzi is tremendous, one of the smoothest jump shots I've ever seen. You love going against great competition. We're excited; they play great defense, and we're going to have to really execute on offense to get to the spots we want to and the shots we want."

Iowa is now 5-1. Meanwhile, UConn coach Geno Auriemma had a lot of praise for his team after it moved to 4-0 with the win over the Blue Devils.

"I'm pretty happy with our group. That's four games in a row now where our defense has been pretty stellar," he said. "One of the things I said in the locker room was I was a little disappointed that I didn't have a lot to complain about defensively, so I couldn't be my normal cranky self. We were pretty much right on point with everything we tried to do."

As for Fudd, Auriemma pointed to the strong supporting cast -- Lou Lopez-Senechal had 23 points and Nika Muhl had 10 assists for the Huskies on Friday -- and also to how well the sophomore Fudd adapts.

"There's a maturity aspect you have to have in knowing that people aren't just going to let me get whatever shot I want and get 30 every night," Auriemma said. "So I'm going to have to pick my spots. I'm not going to force it, I'm not going to take bad shots. Azzi's a very mature player; she understands."