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Iowa's Caitlin Clark gets shot at championship against South Carolina

TV ratings are expected to soar for Sunday's NCAA women's basketball championship as the Hawkeyes try to knock off the undefeated Gamecocks.
Iowa's Caitlin Clark gets shot at championship against South Carolina
Posted at 11:47 PM, Apr 05, 2024

The perfect player vs. the perfect team. A perfect ending.

This women's college basketball season, which has pushed the sport to unprecedented popularity, will conclude Sunday with a dream NCAA title game matchup — Iowa and superstar Caitlin Clark against unbeaten South Carolina.

Clark, who has become something of a national treasure while shattering scoring records, will play for the NCAA title that eluded her last season with a loss to LSU.

For the Gamecocks, it's a chance to avenge their only defeat last season — 77-73 to Clark in the semifinals. Clark scored a Final Four-record 41 points as Iowa ended South Carolina's 42-game winning streak.

TV ratings are expected to soar for this year's finale, which has seemed inevitable as Clark knocked down 3-pointers at a never-seen-before rate and the Gamecocks rampaged through the Southeastern Conference and now this tourney.

Iowa's win last week over Angel Reese and LSU — a rematch of last year's championship — set a record with 12.3 million viewers.

“It feels like every time we’re going into a game in this NCAA Tournament it’s like everybody wanted to see this, just one after the next,” said Clark, who had to get through LSU and UConn to get back to the final. ”It's good for women’s basketball. Being in this moment before gives our group a good understanding of what to expect.

“We know what South Carolina brings to the table. We know we’re going to have our hands full.”

Not on her game in the first half, Clark scored 15 of her 21 points after halftime as the Hawkeyes (33-4) advanced with a 71-69 win over UConn in Friday's second semifinal — a game that lived up to its billing and had the fans inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse roaring from the opening tip to the final horn.

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The Gamecocks (37-0) had it much easier.

Leading by just one point at halftime, they overwhelmed North Carolina State in the third quarter, outscoring the Wolfpack 29-6, and rolled to a 78-59 win in the first semifinal.

Fresh off the emotional win over UConn, Clark wasn't quite ready to consider what lies ahead for the Hawkeyes.

They'll have to deal with 6-foot-7 center Kamilla Cardoso, a swarming defense, lethal outside shooters, unmatched depth and coach Dawn Staley, who's seeking her second title in three years and third since 2017.

“We’ll have a bunch of different things up our sleeves,” Clark said. “We’ll try a bunch of different things. South Carolina has been the top of the top. They’re in a different league. We’re going to do everything we can to try to be right there with them.”

A year ago, Clark's performance in the Final Four against South Carolina raised her national profile.

She was already well known, but when she took down a loaded Gamecocks team led by Aliyah Boston, who went on to become the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft, even casual hoops fans took notice.

Of course, these Gamecocks are a very different team with five new starters, while Iowa's group is mostly intact with title game experience.

And the Hawkeyes have the sensational Clark, who has spent the season hoping for one last shot and is getting it.

“The way that they played tonight was incredible,” she said. “But it’s the national championship. It’s the last game of my career. It’s the last game for five people on this team. I don’t think motivation will be hard to come by.”


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