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Iowa, Caitlin Clark knock out defending champ LSU, will face UConn in Final Four

Iowa and Clark will play the UConn Huskies and Paige Bueckers in the semifinals.
From left, Iowa's Kate Martin, Sydney Affolter and Caitlin Clark celebrate after defeating LSU Monday, April 1, 2024.
From left, Iowa's Kate Martin, Sydney Affolter and Caitlin Clark celebrate after defeating LSU.Mary Altaffer / AP

Iowa punched its ticket to the Final Four on Monday, extending all-star shooter Caitlin Clark’s college basketball career at least one more game and dashing LSU’s hopes for a repeat championship.?

The Hawkeyes beat the Tigers 94-87 in Albany, New York, and now advance to Cleveland, where they'll play the winner of the USC Trojans and Connecticut Huskies game.

Iowa vs. LSU

This year's matchup between Clark and LSU's Angel Reese comes earlier in the tournament than last year, when they faced off for the national championship.

LSU won that one, and Clark has had her eye on the title ever since in her record-breaking senior year. She has said she plans to enter the WNBA draft. Reese, too, will have a decision to make about whether to turn pro or come back with one more season.

As the Elite Eight game kicked off at MVP Arena, Iowa was off to an early lead, but Reese and LSU responded and pulled ahead going into the second quarter.

Reese was pulled in the second quarter with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Though she was seen limping court-side, Reese quickly returned to the game with a little over 6 minutes remaining.

LSU led for much of the second quarter, but the first half ended level at 45-45. Clark twice made her way through the lane to score and assist to give the Hawkeyes the lead, but Flau’jae Johnson ran up the other end and tied the game by spinning away from her defender and hooking in the basket.

LSU forward Angel Reese is double teamed by Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, 22, and forward Hannah Stuelke during the first quarter Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y.
LSU forward Angel Reese is double-teamed by Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, 22, and forward Hannah Stuelke during the first quarter. Mary Altaffer / AP

Clark and Reese ended the first half with 19 and 13 points, respectively, both finishing that half as their teams’ leading scorers. Reese, however, finished the half with eight rebounds to Clark’s one, though the latter had five assists to Reese’s three.

The third quarter began with a familiar sight: Clark scoring a three-pointer from deep to give Iowa the early lead. Meanwhile, Reese entered the third quarter with a new pair of shoes, possibly to help alleviate the ankle pain.

It was almost impossible for LSU to guard Clark, who almost couldn’t stop scoring from deep and ended the third quarter with four three-pointers as the Hawkeyes walked away with a 69-58 lead.

Another three-pointer opened the fourth quarter, but this time it was LSU freshman Mikaylah Williams cutting the deficit for her team.

With 1:45 remaining in the game, Reese fouled out after being called for a charge. Down their talisman, the Tigers fell to the Hawkeyes by 7 points.

“This one probably feels a little bit better. It’s my senior year, with this group,” Clark said after the win. “A lot of people counted us out at the beginning of the year with the people we lost. And all we did was work really hard. To get back here is really hard. This regional was loaded with so much talent. The job’s not finished.”

Clark finished the game with 41 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. She tied a women’s NCAA Tournament record hitting by nine 3-pointers, many from well beyond the arc.

She quickly broke a tie with Diana Taurasi for career 3-pointers in the March Madness with her first one. When she hit her seventh 3, Clark passed Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson for the most in a career among NCAA Division I players. Clark’s ninth gave her 540.

She was 9 of 20 from distance when she tied the record.

USC vs. UConn

Iowa will next play the Connecticut Huskies, who downed top-seeded USC in Portland, Oregon, on Monday night.

The No. 3-seed Huskies and Paige Bueckers were narrowly expected to claim the last spot in the Final Four, with Action Network putting them as three-point favorites over No. 1 seed USC with freshman guard JuJu Watkins.

The first quarter was played at a frenetic pace, but that also produced plenty of misses. USC managed to pull away, but Bueckers dragged her team back into it as the quarter ended 15-17 in the Trojans’ favor.

Bueckers and the Huskies continued their run in the second quarter, as the Bueckers show continued. The three-time All American knocked down two three-pointers en route to a 15-point first half.

However, Watkins was not far behind, finishing the first half with 13 points as the Trojans went on a 6-0 run to finish the half level at 33-33.

Watkins was much more subdued in the third quarter, scoring only three points. That quarter ended with two big threes: one from Ice Brady for UConn and then another by Kayla Padilla for USC, which finished trailing 55-51.

The Trojans started hot in the fourth quarter, going on an 8-4 run that saw Watkins come back to life with 5 points in that stretch.

Watkins finished the game as the top scorer with 29 points — one more than Bueckers — but that wasn’t enough to overcome the Huskies, who walked away with the 80-73 victory.

Final Four

Undefeated No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 3 seed North Carolina State already claimed their tickets to the semifinal round Sunday, and they will face off Friday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.

Likewise, Iowa and Connecticut will also face off Friday

The winners of each Final Four matchup will meet in Cleveland on April 7 for the women's NCAA championship game.

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