With 41 points, Caitlin Clark had another outstanding performance to help Iowa defeat South Carolina 77-73 on Friday night in the Final Four and end their undefeated season.
The outstanding junior guard, who has two games with 40 or more points, has put the Hawkeyes in a position they’ve never been in before: just one win away from winning the national title.
To accomplish that, they will need to defeat an SEC opponent, as LSU (31-6) will play Iowa in the championship game on Sunday. In the other national quarterfinal, the Tigers defeated Virginia Tech.
This was one of the most talked about and eagerly awaited games in the annals of the women’s Final Four thanks to the outstanding performance of Clark and South Carolina’s remarkable year.
To the joy of the sold-out audience of more than 19,000 supporters, the event stood up to the anticipation encircling it.
South Carolina (36-1) under coach Dawn Staley had won 42 straight games, including the title game the previous year.
After 30 years, Iowa made its first Final Four trip this year. The Hawkeyes last made this far in the NCAA Tournament in 1993, and C. The squad that fell to Ohio State in OT was led by Vivian Stringer.
Harper Stribe, a young supporter of the squad who has been fighting illness, was among the audience that Clark mesmerised. She appeared in an unexpected film that congratulated the Iowa standout on winning the AP Player of the Year.
South Carolina tallied the opening five points of the fourth period to reclaim the lead after trailing 59-55 at the half. With two long 3-pointers of her own and a pass to Monika Czinano, Clark immediately came back to give the Hawkeyes a 67-62 advantage.
On Raven Johnson’s 3-pointer, South Carolina closed the gap to 69-68 before Clark, with 3:32 remaining, stole the ball and converted a basket. Up until standout Aliyah Boston was penalised with 1:37 remaining, neither side scored again. Her second of two free throws was successful.
After a break, Clark added another dunk to the other end, bringing the tally to four. The Hawkeyes ran the time down following a basket by Zia Cooke with 58 seconds left, and with 18 seconds left, McKenna Warnock grabbed a crucial offensive rebound off a Clark miss.
With 13.5 seconds remaining, Clark was charged by South Carolina and made two free throws. She surpassed Nneka Ogwumike for the most points tallied in a Final Four quarterfinal with her 38th and 39th goals, respectively.
With 9.9 seconds remaining, Johnson’s putback drew the Gamecocks to within 75-73, but Clark’s two additional free throws ended the contest.
Clark tossed the ball high into the air as the timer ran out and he charged around the court.
The reigning champion Gamecocks, who were attempting to become the 10th team to go an entire season undefeated, saw their remarkable season come to a close with the defeat.
Cooke scored 24 points to lead the Gamecocks. Boston struggled due to foul trouble, scoring just eight points and grabbing ten boards as the Hawkeyes filled the interior and dared South Carolina to attempt an outside shot.
The Gamecocks shot 4 for 20 from beyond the arc and were unable to capitalise on their 49-25 rebounding edge, which included 26 offensive rebounds.