WOMEN'S NCAA TOURNAMENT: Clark carries Iowa past South Carolina, into national final
No. 3 LSU storms past No. 1 Virginia Tech
The crucial difference between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 Iowa on Friday night in the Final Four is that one team had Caitlin Clark and the other did not.
Clark, the consensus national player of the year, piled up 41 points as the Hawkeyes slayed the undefeated Gamecocks 77-73, ending South Carolina's national title defense in front of an announced sold-out crowd in Dallas.
Iowa (31-6) is going to the national championship game for the first time ever, where it will face No. 3 LSU on Sunday. It's the first time since 2011 that no No. 1 seed made the national championship game.
Clark shot 15-for-31 from the floor and also had eight assists and six rebounds. Monika Czinano added 18 points for the Hawkeyes, who won their ninth game in a row.
South Carolina (36-1) was dealt its first loss of the season and saw its 42-game winning streak come to an end. In what was presumably her final game in a South Carolina uniform, Aliyah Boston finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Zia Cooke led the Gamecocks in scoring with 24 points. Kamilla Cardoso added 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Raven Johnson scored 13 points.
Clark's scoring total Friday pushed her past the 1,000-point mark on the season. Only five other players in the history of women's college basketball have accomplished that.
The Hawkeyes punched first. To open the game, Clark scored on two layups and dished out two assists as Iowa took an 8-2 lead. The Hawkeyes led by as many as nine points in the opening frame, but South Carolina charged back in the second quarter to take a brief, 32-31 lead after a 9-2 run.
Iowa took a 38-37 advantage into halftime.
Boston played just eight minutes for South Carolina in the first half after picking up two quick fouls. Cooke kept the team in the game by scoring 18 points in the first 20 minutes.
But while the Gamecocks kept fighting back, they never quite figured out how to stop Clark. She either shot over the South Carolina defense, drove through it or passed around it. South Carolina threw a whole stable of defenders at Clark: Kierra Fletcher, Johnson, Laeticia Amihere, Bree Hall and Brea Beal all spent minutes guarding the sharpshooter.
Every time South Carolina made a run, Clark was there to respond. The Gamecocks again took a brief one-point lead in the early moments of the fourth quarter on a layup from Boston, but Clark responded by swishing a 3-pointer and then feeding an assist to Czinano to push Iowa's lead back to two possessions.
Clark scored Iowa's final 10 points in the last six minutes to seal the victory.
No. 3 LSU 79, No. 1 Virginia Tech 72
For the first time ever, LSU will play in women's college basketball's national championship game.
Angel Reese tallied 24 points and 12 rebounds as the No. 3 Tigers topped No. 1 Virginia Tech in the Final Four on Friday night, 79-72.
It was Reese's 33rd double-double of the year, which is a single-season record for a player in the Southeastern Conference. Alexis Morris scored 27 points for LSU and LaDazhia Williams had 16 points and seven rebounds.
Virginia Tech (31-5) was playing in its first-ever national semifinal. The Hokies were led by Elizabeth Kitley's double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Georgia Amoore scored 17 points and went 4-for-15 from behind the arc, which gave her the record for most 3-pointers made in a single women's NCAA Tournament with 24.
Kayana Traylor had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Hokies, while Cayla King added 14 points.
LSU led by nine points in the second quarter, but saw that advantage vanish as Virginia Tech embarked on a 28-7 run over waning moments of the second quarter and the beginning stages of the third quarter. Traylor scored all of her points in those two quarters and the Hokies shot 6-of-15 from behind the arc over that stretch.
By halftime, Virginia Tech led 34-32 and had 11 more rebounds than LSU. Reese had just two boards in the game's first 20 minutes.
Virginia Tech led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, but then LSU came roaring back in the fourth. The Tigers started the final period on a 22-3 run to take a 72-62 lead with 3:04 to play. Reese and Morris each scored 10 points in the fourth.
The Hokies made just one of their final eight field-goal attempts in the game.
While LSU allowed the Hokies to knock down nine 3-pointers, the Tigers dominated inside, outscoring Virginia Tech 54-14 in the paint. LSU also grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and turned those into 24 second-chance points.
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