Marshall’s block and Affolter’s successful three-point play propelled Iowa into a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, sparking their journey to a 64-54 victory over West Virginia. This pivotal moment could be labeled as a game-changing sequence, perhaps even a season-defining one.

Iowa had let slip a 10-point advantage, with West Virginia’s J.J. Quinerly poised to sink a crucial 3-pointer from the right wing, potentially giving his team the lead.

However, it was Gabbie Marshall who emerged with the standout defensive move, possibly the most impactful defensive play not just of the game, but of the entire year.

Iowa’s Sydney Affolter (3) converts the go-ahead layup with 2:03 remaining in the Hawkeyes’ 64-54 win over West Virginia in the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

With just over two minutes left on the clock, Sydney Affolter converted a crucial layup, putting Iowa ahead in their 64-54 triumph over West Virginia in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament’s second round, held at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday.
“I had to do something for my team,” she said.

Marshall blocked Quinerly’s shot, and Sydney Affolter converted a three-point play moments later.

That six-point swing ignited the second-ranked Hawkeyes to a 12-2 run in the final 2:03, and ultimately a 64-54 NCAA second-round win Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“Gabbie made an amazing defensive play,” Affolter said. “Then I saw a lane and I took it.”

It was Marshall’s third block of the season, the 13th of her career. And it was reminiscent of a key swat she had in overtime against Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament final.

“To have that moment, it was amazing,” Marshall said.

One of five Hawkeyes making her final Carver appearance, Marshall didn’t score a point Monday. But her block — and Affolter’s conversion — was as big of a play as any that Iowa (31-4) mustered all night.

“Gabbie didn’t score, but she never stops working her butt off on defense,” said Kate Martin, another senior.

“That play motivated us. You see that play, and you see that kind of passion in Gabbie, and it’s infectious. Then Syd, she had an opportunity and made a play at the rim.”

Iowa could have been down 55-52 had Quinerly nailed that 3-pointer with 2:12 left. Instead, Marshall made the swat, Affolter made the play on the other end of the court, and the Hawkeyes were up 55-52 at the 2:03 mark.

The remainder of the game was a free-throw fiesta. Iowa made 14 of 15 in the final 4:46, and the back end of Affolter’s three-point play started a 10-of-11 spree from the line in the final 2:03.

That included a late 3-of-4 from Hannah Stuelke, who had missed a pair earlier in the fourth quarter.

Stuelke was a 46-percent free-throw shooter as a freshman. This year, she’s up to 62 percent.

“Going into these big games, I’m going to need to knock down free throws, and I think this is a stepping stone to that for sure,” Stuelke said.

There’s at least one more big game to play, and perhaps as many as four.

Iowa will face No. 17 Colorado (24-9) in a Sweet 16 contest at 2:30 (CT) Saturday at MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y.

No. 6 UCLA (27-6) meets No. 8 LSU (30-5) in the other regional semifinal, at noon.

The regional final is 6 p.m. Monday.