Iowa’s hottest shooter? Not Caitlin Clark. How Gabbie Marshall’s 3s made a name for herself

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 04: Gabbie Marshall #24 and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes celebrate a turnover against the Maryland Terrapins in the second half of the game in the semifinals of the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament at Target Center on March 4, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins 89-84. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When listing the challenges her team faced before its second-round game against Iowa, Georgia coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson drew a blank when she arrived at guard Gabbie Marshall.

“Obviously the cute little one with the eyes; who is that?” Abrahamson-Henderson asked. Someone responded, “They all have eyes.” Georgia coach retorted: “Cute eyes, pretty eyes. … See, women know that. She’s a really good defender and just, I would consider her besides Caitlin (Clark) a sniper. She can knock down shots.”

Marshall, a 5-foot-9 senior from Cincinnati, has green eyes so light they almost match her blonde hair. She ignores Twitter and only learned of Abrahamson-Henderson’s comments through a group chat with teammates. She hopped on social media late Saturday night to discover the context of the coach’s remarks.

“I don’t know how to take it honestly. Do I say thank you?” Marshall said. “Does she not know my name?”

Marshall’s teammates took it differently. And personally.

“I thought it was disrespectful especially for how great Gabbie’s been shooting the ball,” Clark said. “Gabbie does have beautiful eyes, but her name is Gabbie Marshall, just so everybody knows.”

Chances are, everyone who scouts Iowa will remember Marshall’s name and game — and the green-light she’s earned for shooting more than her green eyes. She made sure of that for the second-seeded Hawkeyes against No. 10 Georgia in Sunday’s 74-66 NCAA Tournament win at sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena, avenging last season’s stunning early exit for a trip to the Sweet 16. Marshall drilled five 3-pointers, including four in the second quarter. Her defense also was pivotal at the top of Iowa’s zone, with two steals and multiple deflections.

On a team with a first-team All-American in Clark and a first-team All-Big Ten post in Monika Czinano, it’s easy for a player like Marshall to get lost amid the sea of accolades. Yet for Iowa to make its first Final Four in 30 years, it needs players beyond Clark and Czinano to become X-factors. Over the last four weeks, Marshall has earned that label — and more — for the Hawkeyes.

Spanning Iowa’s last 10 games, Marshall is Iowa’s hottest shooter from long range, hitting 33 of 53 (62.2 percent) 3-pointers. She has near-perfect form and is repetitive, from her pregame shots in warmups to her 3-pointers from the corner. Eyes locked on the target, she squares up and her right-handed shot features a soft release. But those effortless appearances belie the stress and the difficulty it took Marshall to reach this point.

Through Iowa’s first 24 games, Marshall hit 19 of 83 (22.9 percent) 3-point attempts. In several games when her shots weren’t falling, it affected every part of her game. In December alone, she sank 3 of 24 3-pointers and self-doubt set in as she worried about how she was impacting the Hawkeyes.

“Obviously, when you’re struggling like that, you go back to the basics,” Marshall said. “You get in the gym and you think, OK, what’s wrong with my form? Then you get that fixed, and you’re still in a slump. So, then you go to confidence, which is mental.”

She credits coach Lisa Bluder for helping her break out of the slump by sending her videos of all of her made shots.

“She was like, look at that beautiful form. I just wanted to let you see a few go in,” Marshall said. “That was really, really helpful and cool for her to do that. I feel like (that) was just all it was, confidence.”

Bluder also brought Marshall into her office for an honest conversation, where Bluder stressed how much the team supported her. “She was like, ‘We have all the confidence in the world in you. We know you’re going to turn this around,’” Marshall said. “It was all positive, constructive criticism. Nothing in there was negative. It didn’t bring me down. It actually gave me the confidence to turn it around.”

It’s not unusual for Bluder and Marshall to have frank conversations. As a freshman, Marshall started one game and played in 30, but in order to make the starting lineup, Bluder told her she needed to improve defensively. Marshall invested her offseason workouts on defense, and now she has started 94 consecutive games and averaged 30 minutes a game over the last three seasons. She regularly defends the opponent’s top guard, and in the Big Ten, that can be a challenge.

“She has always worked so hard defensively,” Bluder said. “She has always denied really well, ball pressure really well and it’s something that we really count on and we always tell her to focus on that rather than the offense, because what she brings for us in the defensive end is so important.”

Marshall averages six points per game, but also boasts 50-plus in each category of steals, rebounds and assists. She’s hit those marks for three straight seasons. She has elevated her 3-point prowess through the postseason. Counting three Big Ten tournaments and two NCAA games, Marshall has sunk 19 of 33 3-point attempts. In a Big Ten semifinal against Maryland, she drilled 7 of 13 3-pointers, and against Georgia, she hit 5 of 8.

“We’re really excited to see her keep shooting like she is,” Iowa guard Kate Martin said. “Everybody has an off game here or there, but just keeping that confidence in her is all you can really do.”

Marshall thrives in her role. Her defense helps ignite Iowa’s transition game. When she’s hitting from the outside, it opens up the paint for Czinano. It spaces the floor for Clark and other teammates to drive or hit 3-pointers. Her toughness is an underrated quality, but one that makes her a crowd favorite.

One of the most popular women’s basketball T-shirts worn at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is “Grit Like Gabbie.” Though she helped pick that slogan, with a laugh Marshall suggested that she should “hit up RayGun” to see if the apparel company that makes Iowa-themed garb will design a new T-shirt with a catchphrase based on her eye color. Or, she added, perhaps those comments could help her earn a side contract with a makeup company.

She’s long been recognized in Iowa. But if her sharp shooting continues helping Iowa advance in the tournament, Marshall’s name will be well known throughout college basketball.


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