Iowa topples LSU to reach Women’s Final Four

Published 10:18 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Caitlin Clark put up another sensational performance to carry Iowa to its second straight Final Four.

The Hawkeyes’ superstar guard, whose record-breaking exploits have brought unprecedented attention to women’s basketball, made nine 3-pointers and finished with 41 points and 12 assists as Iowa knocked defending national champion LSU out of the NCAA Women’s Tournament with a 94-87 victory on Monday night.

“It’s amazing to be back in the Final Four. It’s so hard to get back there,” Clark said. “This region was really hard, but we told ourselves we are the one seed for a reason.”

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Top-seeded Iowa (33-4) will play Connecticut in the national semifinals Friday night in Cleveland. UConn beat Southern California 80-73 Monday in the Portland 3 Regional final.

Monday’s highly anticipated match-up was a rematch of last year’s national championship game won by LSU, which drew a record 9.9 million viewers.

Both teams wished that this meeting had come later in the tournament instead of with a Final Four berth at stake, but that was out of their control.

Clark, who also scored 41 points in the regional final last year, and Angel Reese of LSU put on a memorable show for the sold-out crowd and the millions watching.

“I think it’s just great for the sport, just being able to be a part of history. Like I said, no matter which way it went tonight, I know this was going to be a night for the ages,” said Reese, who had 17 points and 20 rebounds before fouling out with 1:45 left. “And just being able to be a part of history is great. Playing against another great player, of course, is always amazing.”

Clark has already declared for this year’s WNBA draft. Reese, too, will have a decision to make about whether to turn pro or come back for one more season.

With the game tied at 45 after an entertaining first half, Clark took over in the third quarter. The NCAA Division I all-time scoring leader hit four 3-pointers, each deeper than the previous one. Her fourth of the quarter, from her signature logo range, made it 61-52. It also was the 538th of her career, which made her the all-time leader in that category among NCAA Division I players, passing Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson.

“There’s not a lot of strategy. You’ve got to guard her. Nobody else seems to be able to guard her,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “We didn’t even guard her last year when we beat them. She’s just a generational player, and she just makes everybody around her better.”

Flau’jae Johnson scored 23 points for No. 3 seed LSU (31-6), which fell short of becoming the first repeat champion since UConn in 2016.

Kate Martin scored 21 points for Iowa and Sydney Affolter added 16.

Iowa’s lead ballooned to 65-52 before LSU scored six straight points. The Tigers trailed 69-58 heading into the fourth quarter before scoring the first five points to get within 69-63.

But they got no closer as Clark wouldn’t let the Hawkeyes lose. Her ninth 3-pointer, which tied the March Madness single-game record, made it 80-69 with 5:05 left. She pumped her chest as she ran back down the court and yelled to the adoring crowd.

“I got hyped for a second,” Clark said. “When you are playing a team like LSU, they are never out of the game. No matter what the time or score is. Do not start celebrating or get too emotional. They are going to fight until the end.”