Ruthless Caitlin Clark’s 41-point game seals Iowa’s upset of South Carolina
Caitlin Clark had another sensational game with 41 points to help Iowa spoil South Carolina’s perfect season with a 77-73 victory on Friday night in the Final Four.
The spectacular junior guard, who has back-to-back 40-point games, now has the Hawkeyes in a spot they’ve never been in before – one victory away from a national championship.
“This is incredible, I don’t even know what to say,” she said after the game. “I just love these girls so much.”
They’ll have to beat another SEC team to do that as Iowa will face LSU in the title game on Sunday afternoon.
Thanks to the spectacular play of Clark and the historic year by South Carolina, this was one of the most talked about and highly anticipated matchups in women’s Final Four history.
The game lived up to the hype surrounding it, much to the delight of the sellout crowd of over 19,000 fans. Coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina had won 42 in a row, including last year’s championship game.
Clark wowed the crowd that included Harper Stribe, a young fan of the team who has been battling cancer. She was featured in a surprise video that informed the Hawkeyes’ star that she was the AP Player of the Year.
Trailing 59-55 entering the fourth quarter, South Carolina scored the first five points to take the lead. Clark answered right back with two deep three-pointers and an assist to Monika Czinano to give the Hawkeyes a 67-62 lead.
South Carolina got within 69-68 on Raven Johnson’s three-pointer before Clark got a steal for a layup with 3:32 left. Neither team scored again until star Aliyah Boston was fouled with 1:37 left. She made the second of two free throws.
Clark then scored another layup on the other end out of a timeout to make it a four-point game. After a layup by Zia Cooke made it a two-point game with 58 seconds left, the Hawkeyes ran the clock down with McKenna Warnock grabbing a huge offensive rebound off a Clark miss with 18 seconds remaining.
Clark hit two free throws after South Carolina fouled her with 13.5 seconds left. They were her 38th and 39th points, moving her past Nneka Ogwumike for the most points scored in a Final Four semifinal game.
After a putback by Johnson with 9.9 seconds left got the Gamecocks within 75-73, Clark sealed the game with two more free throws. As the final seconds went off the clock Clark threw the ball high in the air and galloped around the court.
“I’d like to have had a few more threes, that would have been nice,” joked Clark after the game.
The loss ended a spectacular season for the defending champion Gamecocks, who were trying to become the 10th team to go through a season unbeaten.
Cooke led the Gamecocks with 24 points. Slowed by foul trouble, Boston had just eight points and 10 rebounds as the Hawkeyes packed the paint, daring South Carolina to shoot from the outside.
The Gamecocks finished 4-for-20 from behind the three-point line and couldn’t take advantage of their 49-25 advantage on the boards that included 26 offensive rebounds.
LSU beat Virginia Tech in the other semi-final earlier on Friday night. It’s the Tigers’ first appearance in the title game as Kim Mulkey became the second coach to take two different teams to the championship game. Alexis Morris scored 27 points and had two of her misses in the fourth quarter turned into putback baskets by Angel Reese in a big run as LSU rallied to beat top-seeded Virginia Tech 79-72.
“I’m never satisfied. I’m super-excited that we won, but I’m hungry,” said Morris, who jumped on a courtside table and fired up LSU fans after the game. “Like, I’m greedy. I want to win it all so I can complete the story.”
Reese finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds for LSU.
“It’s like a dream. It still hasn’t hit me that I’m at the Final Four,” said Reese, the transfer from Maryland who carries the nickname Bayou Barbie. “I’m just not even believing this right now. It’s crazy how much my life has changed in one year.”
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