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South Carolina beats Iowa to take home NCAA women's championship title: Highlights

The undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks kept their winning streak going to take home their third national championship title. Iowa fell short in star Caitlin Clark’s final college game.

South Carolina beat Iowa 87-75 to win its third NCAA women’s championship.

The Gamecocks' Tessa Johnson had 19 points and Kamilla Cardoso had 15 as the team smothered Iowa’s hope for its first championship title.

It was the final game in the college career of Iowa Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark, who broke Division I scoring records for both women and men, and who is going to the WNBA draft. She had 30 points.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was overcome with emotion and in tears after the win.

“I’m so incredibly happy for our players,” Staley said. “It doesn’t always end like you want it to end, much like last year.”

It was Iowa that knocked South Carolina out of the tournament last year, beating them in the Final Four. But since then, South Carolina has not lost a game.

“I’m super proud of where I work, I’m super proud of our fans — it’s awesome. It’s awesome. It’s unbelievable,” Staley said.

With the win, South Carolina had the 10th perfect season in the history of Division I women’s basketball.

Staley, after accepting the trophy along with her team, congratulated Iowa for an “incredible season,” and she singled out Clark.

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport,” Staley said. “She carried a heavy load for our sport. And it’s just — it’s not going to stop here on the collegiate tour, but when she is the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, she’s going to lift that league up as well.”

“So, Caitlin Clark, if you’re out there: You are one of the GOATs of our game, and we appreciate you,” Staley said, using the acronym for “greatest of all time.”

It all comes down to this.

Tomorrow night, the UConn Huskies face the Purdue Boilermakers in the men's NCAA tournament championship game at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, closing the curtain on this year's March Madness tournaments.

Tune in at 9:20 p.m. ET to see who takes the title.

Photo highlights from the women's championship

Whitney Matewe

South Carolina guard Tessa Johnson (5) fights for a loose ball with Iowa guard Sydney Affolter (3) and guard Kate Martin (20) during the second half on Sunday.
South Carolina guard Tessa Johnson (5) fights for a loose ball with Iowa guard Sydney Affolter (3) and guard Kate Martin (20) during the second half on Sunday.Morry Gash / AP
NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Ashlyn Watkins #2 of the South Carolina Gamecocks shoots!Ben Solomon / Getty Images
South Carolina guard Bree Hall #23 shoots over Iowa guard Caitlin Clark #22.
South Carolina guard Bree Hall #23 shoots over Iowa guard Caitlin Clark #22.Carolyn Kaster / AP
NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Kamilla Cardoso #10 of the South Carolina Gamecocks and Sydney Affolter #3 of the Iowa Hawkeyes jump for a rebound Sunday.C. Morgan Engel / Getty Images
Iowa forward Hannah Stuelke #45 shoots over South Carolina forward Chloe Kitts #21 during the second half of the championship game.
Iowa forward Hannah Stuelke #45 shoots over South Carolina forward Chloe Kitts #21 during the second half of the championship game. Morry Gash / AP
NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Caitlin Clark leaves after speaking to the media after Iowa's loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2024 NCAA women's basketball national championship. Steph Chambers / Getty Images
NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Hina Paopao #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates with the trophy. South Carolina beat Iowa 87-75.Ben Solomon / Getty Images
South Carolina players and coach celebrate with the trophy
South Carolina players and coach celebrate with the trophy after winning the NCAA basketball championship against Iowa on Sunday. Morry Gash / AP

Clark: 'I'll miss ya'

Shortly after her team fell in the title game, Iowa's Caitlin Clark posted an Instagram story featuring her #22 jersey and signature yellow and black sneaks.

"I'll miss ya," she captioned the post, along with a bunch of yellow heart emojis.

Clark is headed to the WNBA after four years playing for the Hawkeyes.

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes on Sunday. Steph Chambers / Getty Images

LSU's Angel Reese congratulates the Gamecocks and looks ahead

NBC News

Lebron James is a Staley stan

NBC News

Tune in to NBC Sports’ Bet the Edge for men's championship preview

Brian Hamilton, NBC Sports

Jay Croucher and Drew Dinsick will preview the men's national championship on NBC Sports’ Bet the Edge Monday at 6 a.m. ET right here or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Indiana Fever will likely snag Clark as the first overall pick

That's a wrap on Clark's college basketball career with the Iowa Hawkeyes. Next up for the NCAA all-time scorer: The WNBA draft.

It's no secret Clark is a heavy favorite to go as the first overall pick during the April 15 draft.

The Indiana Fever won the first overall pick for the 2024 WNBA draft, so it looks like Clark will be staying in the Midwest and donning navy blue, red and gold on the court during the upcoming season.

This is the second consecutive year the Fever got the top pick, according to the WNBA. Last year, they selected Aliyah Boston, who was later voted the 2023 Kia WNBA Rookie of the Year.

Obama congratulates South Carolina

NBC News

Here's who's headed to the WNBA next year

We already know Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese are headed to the WNBA next season. Here’s a look at some of the other top prospects who could be early picks in the draft later this month:

Cameron Brink (Stanford)

Cameron Brink
Stanford's Cameron Brink during the first half of a Sweet 16 college basketball game in the women's NCAA Tournament against N.C. State on March 29.Howard Lao / AP file

Rickea Jackson (Tennessee) 

Kamilla Cardoso (South Carolina) 

Aaliyah Edwards (UConn)

Aaliyah Edwards
UConn Huskies' Aaliyah Edwards warms up prior to the game against the Jackson State Lady Tigers on March 23.Mingo Nesmith / Icon Sportswire via AP file

 Jacy Sheldon (Ohio State) 

Alissa Pili (Utah)

Dyaisha Fair (Syracuse)

Dyaisha Fair
Syracuse Orange's Dyaisha Fair drives past Florida State Seminoles guard Sara Bejedi during the quarterfinals of the Women's ACC Tournament on March 8.Scott Kinser / Cal Sport Media via AP file

Charisma Osborne (UCLA) 

Nika Mühl (UConn)

Elizabeth Kitley (Virginia Tech) 

Jaz Shelley (Nebraska) 

Savannah Wheeler (Middle Tennessee State) 

Savannah Wheeler
Middle Tennessee's Savannah Wheeler during second-round action of the NCAA women's March Madness tournament against the LSU Tigers on March 24.Jonathan Mailhes / Cal Sport Media via AP file

Cardoso is tournament's most outstanding player

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Kamilla Cardoso #10 celebrates with Sania Feagin #20 after the Gamecocks beat the Hawkeyes Sunday.Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso was named the tournament’s most outstanding player following her dominant 15-point, 17-rebound performance in today’s title game. That box score-filling line on the biggest stage comes after two other double-doubles during the earlier parts of the tournament.

Cardoso proved too much to handle for Iowa throughout the game, and the Hawkeyes likely aren't alone in that feeling, as Cardoso ends the tournament averaging a double double: 16.6 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game while shooting 64% from the field.

"Kamilla Cardoso was not going to let us lose a game in the NCAA tournament," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said in her postgame comments, also reflecting on Cardoso's strong WNBA prospects.

Cardoso ends her career with two national titles at South Carolina and was named WBCA defensive player of the year. She also projects as a top-five pick in this year's WNBA draft, along with title game combatant Caitlin Clark.

Raven Johnson's revenge tour is over

"All I have to say is the revenge tour is over," South Carolina's Raven Johnson said in postgame comments following her team's NCAA title and undefeated season.

Dawn Staley lauds Caitlin Clark for lifting up women's basketball

"I really would just like to say that I have to congratulate Iowa on an incredible season, awesome, awesome," South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley said following her team's win and undefeated season.

She went on to thank Clark for bringing such attention to the women's game.

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Caitlin Clark reacts after Iowa loses to the South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2024 NCAA women's national championship Sunday.Steph Chambers / Getty Images

"I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport. She carried a heavy load for our sport. And it's just — it's not going to stop here on the collegiate tour, but when she is the number one pick in the WNBA draft, she's going to lift that league up as well," Staley said in postgame comments.

"Caitlin Clark if you’re out there: You are one of the GOATs of our game, and we appreciate you."

Paopao reflects on Gamecocks' journey in postgame chat

Te-Hina Paopao, one of the standouts in South Carolina’s championship game victory, spoke with ESPN after the end of the game, highlighting the Gamecocks’ impressive undefeated run in the face of an entirely new set of starters and nonextraordinary expectations heading into the season.

“We’ve come a long way, this is a long journey,” Paopao told ESPN. “I’m just so proud of this team.”

Paopao finished with 14 points today, the third-leading scorer for the Gamecocks, and she hit the final two free throws to truly put the game away with just more than a minute left.

Dawn Staley sobs over South Carolina win

After her Gamecocks came out victorious, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was crying so hard she could barely get the words out to express her excitement for her undefeated team.

Staley said she is "so incredibly happy for our players" and that "it doesn't always end the way you want it to end," referring to last year's tournament, when Iowa knocked out South Carolina in the Final Four.

"We hope we can erase whatever pain they had last year," Staley said of the win.

She called the win "awesome" and "unbelievable" and said she's "super proud" of her team's work and of the fans.

"You have to let young people be who they are. You have to guide them and navigate them through this world," Staley said. "When young people lock in and have a belief and trust … this is what can happen."

"They etched their names in the history books," Staley said of her team. "This is the unlikeliest group to do it."

Clark, Tessa Johnson clock in as leading scorers

Clark led the Iowa Hawkeyes, and the game, as the top scorer with 30 points.

For the Gamecocks, Tessa Johnson led the way with 19 points off the bench.

South Carolina wins it all, 87-75

The Gamecocks take the NCAA trophy, capping off a perfect season with a 38-0 record, making them only the tenth Division I women's basketball team to finish the season undefeated.

The win also marks the end of Caitlin Clark's decorated college basketball career, which stopped short of the ultimate title.

South Carolina might be tested on the line

Down the stretch South Carolina’s free throw shooting might prove essential — a risky proposition for the 245th-ranked team by free throw percentage (69%) during the season in women’s DI basketball. Iowa, by comparison, was 15th in the country at 78% from the stripe.

Gamecocks need the extra offense they're getting

South Carolina, which is looking for its third national title since 2017, will need to do something unusual to get there in this final quarter against Iowa: bring themselves to score more than 70 points in a championship game.

In the Gamecocks’ previous two title game victories in 2022 and 2017, the Dawn Staley-led squad needed just 64 and 67 points, respectively, to get the job done. Already, South Carolina is north of 75 points against the offensive powerhouse that is the Caitlin Clark-led Iowa team.

Iowa is still capable of a comeback, having done so many times throughout the 2023-24 season, including a 12-point comeback against Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game.

A best friend and basketball make for 10-year-old's perfect day in Cleveland

Jesse Kirsch

CLEVELAND — Charlotte Kulesea couldn’t be having a better day in Cleveland.

“A lot,” the 10-year-old said when asked how important the day was to her.

“It’s very important because I get to spend time with my mom and my best friend,” she said.

Charlotte and her best friend, Remy Hood, also 10, were wearing matching Final Four T-shirts at the women’s NCAA title game.

“It’s so fun because I get to watch my role models play. And just it’s so fascinating,” Charlotte said. “I can play and just be myself and work as hard as I want.”

Charlotte’s mom said it was treat watching the kids enjoy the game.

“This is just amazing. ... She loves basketball, so it’s really wonderful watching her be inspired to see these girls do this amazing stuff,” her mom said.

South Carolina maintains lead with 10 minutes to go

At the end of the third quarter, the score sits at 68-59 in the Gamecocks' favor.

Now, it all comes down to the next 10 minutes to determine who will pull through as the NCAA champion.

Image: NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Te-Hina Paopao of the South Carolina Gamecocks dribbles around Sydney Affolter of the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second half of the national championship Sunday.Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Star-studded stands in Cleveland

Jason Sudeikis made it back to the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to cheer on the women's game today. He was joined by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts elsewhere in the crowd, the announcers said, even though Hurts wasn't shown on screen.

Image: NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Jason Sudeikis is in the stands of the 2024 NCAA women's national championship game in Cleveland on Sunday.Steph Chambers / Getty Images

Cardoso has her third double-double of the tourney

South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso has asserted her dominance, especially in the paint, early and often in Cleveland. The South Carolina senior center already has a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and has made the most of her time on the court.

That marks her third double-double of the tournament and second in a row after putting up 22 points and 11 rebounds against N.C. State on Friday.

South Carolina extends lead early in second half

A 11-0 South Carolina run across the end of the first half and beginning of the second has upped the Gamecocks' lead to nine, their largest of the game at 55-46.

Caitlin Clark reveals which athlete is on her lock screen — and he’s honored

Alex Portée, TODAY

Clark’s phone’s lock screen is Olympic-level.

The 22-year-old point guard and all-time leading scorer in college basketball revealed that she has a photo of Michael Phelps on the lock screen of her phone. The star player made the reveal in an interview posted to the NCAA March Madness women’s basketball X account on Wednesday.

The video shows Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes teammates sharing some behind-the-scenes details.

“This is Michael Phelps swimming ... in the Olympics. It’s pretty tough,” Clark said in the clip.

Click through to read more.

NCAA athletes are inking deals, but lack of laws is creating chaos

Sam Brock

College basketball stars such as Clark and Angel Reese have captivated sports fans everywhere with their skill and determination, but their meteoric rise is also shining a spotlight on the NCAA’s name, image and likeness policy that allows student-athletes to make money from their personal brand.

Ever since a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2021 paved the way for athletes to monetize their brand and pursue “education-related benefits,” the federal government has done nothing to provide structure or guardrails for how that would work.

Some 30 states have passed their own name, image and likeness (NIL) laws, while a series of court decisions have raised questions about what universities can and cannot do in the recruitment process.

The resulting vacuum has been filled by “collectives,” or third-party organizations formed by deep-pocketed donors and school supporters who can pool money and offer NIL deals to athletes — in some cases effectively creating a bidding war.

Read the full story here.

LeBron James rocks with Caitlin Clark

Women's tourney hype reaches 'SNL'

The excitement of women’s college basketball made it to "Saturday Night Live."

Spoofing TNT’s panel of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, the “SNL” cast said what many people have been thinking: The women’s NCAA Tournament has proved more exciting than the men’s tourney.

Smith and Barkley, played by Devon Walker and Kenan Thompson, respectively, told James Austin Johnson’s Ernie Johnson that they didn’t watch the UConn men’s team beat Alabama on Saturday.

“It’s just hard to get excited when there’s better games on,” Walker’s Smith said. “You mean the NBA?” Johnson replied. “Naw, the women’s tournament,” Walker shot back.

Thompson’s Barkley pointed out the star power in the women’s tournament, namely Iowa ace Caitlin Clark, before reluctantly running down the matchups for the upcoming men’s final: “Him and him, this guy on this guy, half-‘stache on braids. Let’s see, baby face versus baby face, tall white versus tall Asian. Yeah, I think that about covers it.”

South Carolina leads heading into the locker room

It's been a battle on the court, but South Carolina is up at the half, after trailing behind Iowa for most of the first two quarters.

The 49-46 lead has been no easy feat for the Gamecocks. With just seconds to go and a 1 point lead, Raven Johnson stole the ball from Caitlin Clark to shoot a layup that secured South Carolina's lead.

Clark equals total from Final Four outing vs. UConn

Clark took a while to score in the second quarter, but she just hit a quintessential long-range three with less than 1:30 left in the half to get to 21 points for the game — already equaling her total from Friday’s Final Four game against UConn, where she struggled to get going in the first half. 

If Friday’s game was any indication, Clark likely has more in store for the rest of the game.

Her tournament high was in the Elite Eight against LSU (41 points) and her season high was 49 points in February against Michigan — both certainly within sights for the senior as she plays her final collegiate game.

South Carolina would have a perfect season if team wins today

If the Gamecocks prevail against the Hawkeyes today, it will be the first women’s Division I basketball team to have a perfect season since 2016.

South Carolina has a record of 37-0 this season going into the NCAA championship game held in Cleveland. If the Gamecocks win, it would have the 10th perfect season in the 41-year history of the women's Division I basketball tournament.

The last team to have a perfect season including postseason games was the UConn Huskies in 2016.

Iowa has had four losses in its season.

There have been nine perfect seasons in Division I of women’s basketball, but only four universities — Baylor, UConn, Tennessee and Texas, according to the NCAA. UConn has had six, and the others had one each.

Gamecocks bench shining bright in second quarter

Undefeated South Carolina is proving its depth midway through the second quarter, as the Gamecocks already have 20 points from players coming off of the bench, including freshman guards Tessa Johnson and MiLaysia Fulwiley's 9 and 7 points, respectively.

That's not to take anything away from South Carolina's starters — highlighted by center Kamilla Cardoso, who is leading the Gamecocks with 11 points and 7 rebounds.

South Carolina takes 1st lead of the game

The Gamecocks took its first lead of the game with a layup by Kamilla Cardoso in the second quarter to bring the score to 36-34.

Iowa responded shortly thereafter to bring it to a 36-36 tie, on a Hannah Stuelke score.

‘She’s fast,’ Iowa coach says of South Carolina’s Fulwiley

Iowa Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder said South Carolina’s MiLaysia Fulwiley is so fast, their best option is to try and deny her the basketball.

“Man, she’s fast,” Bluder said after the end of the first quarter. “She’s fast with the basketball, she’s fast going downhill.”

“I think we’ve got to keep the ball out of her hands in order to stop her — because once she gets the ball it’s pretty hard to contain her,” Bluder said.

Image: South Carolina's MiLaysia Fulwiley  during the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
MiLaysia Fulwiley of the South Carolina Gamecocks reacts after a scoring a 3-point basket Sunday.Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Clark all-time leading scorer in women's tournament history

Clark now has another notable NCAA record — her 480 points (and counting) in the NCAA tournament is also an all-time record, breaking Tennessee legend Chamique Holdsclaw’s record that she set for the Volunteers in the late 1990s.

Clark sets single-quarter title game record for points

Clark is pouring it on in Cleveland — the Iowa senior has 18 points through the first quarter in the NCAA tournament title game, an all-time record for a single quarter in title game history.

As we all grab a collective breath in between quarters, we can marvel at Clark’s performance so far: 3-for-4 from long range, 5-for-8 from the field and 5-for-6 from the line, all while creating offense all over the court.

Clark has 1st turnover of the game

Clark, after scoring many of the first points of the game, missed on a pass and caused the game’s first turnover.

Clark was inside the 3-point zone and passed back toward where Hannah Stuelke had been, but Stuelke had moved. South Carolina’s MiLaysia Fulwiley would go on to score a 3-pointer after the turnover.

Big weekend for Cleveland!

Fans cheer as Iowa takes the court
Fans cheer as Iowa takes the court during practice for the NCAA women's championship basketball game.Morry Gash / AP

Cleveland is getting quite a lot of attention this weekend.

Between hosting the women's NCAA Final Four and championship game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and being in the path of totality for Monday's eclipse, it's sure an exciting weekend to be an Ohioan.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder poses for a selfie with a fan
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder poses for a selfie with a fan during practice in Cleveland on Saturday.Morry Gash / AP

Hawkeyes ahead at the end of the first quarter

Iowa leads 27-20 after the first 10 minutes of play.

After Clark quickly took an early lead for the Hawkeyes, South Carolina clawed its way back to close the gap a bit as the first quarter closed out.

Uncharted deficit territory for South Carolina in first quarter

Lost in the offensive explosion out of the gate for Iowa and Clark is the deficit that South Carolina is already having to battle back from. The Gamecocks have barely trailed in the NCAA tournament so far, to say nothing of the entire regular season, where South Carolina was notably undefeated, and routinely won games by 20-plus points. 

The Gamecocks are clawing back with a 9-2 run here late in the first quarter, but Dawn Staley's squad is certainly not used to playing from behind.

Image: South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso drives around Iowa forward Hannah Stuelke.
South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso drives around Iowa forward Hannah Stuelke, left, during the first half of the NCAA college basketball championship game Sunday.Morry Gash / AP

Gamecocks' Staley among the game's most decorated and seasoned coaches

Dawn Staley has been here before — the Gamecocks inimitable leader is one of women’s basketball’s most decorated individuals and has led South Carolina to four straight Final Fours and two total national titles, and is looking for a third today. 

Staley, who has been in coaching for more than two decades, also has extensive Final Four experience as a player, leading her Virginia team in the late '80s and early '90s to three Final Fours and one title game. Staley averaged 16.3 points per game across her four-year college career before a much-celebrated professional career for Team USA, the American Basketball League and ultimately the WNBA.

Staley entered the college coaching ranks as coach at Temple, where the Owls made six NCAA tournaments before leaving for South Carolina, where she’s been since 2008. In total, Staley-coached Gamecocks squads have been to six Final Fours.

Crowd in Cleveland appears heavily pro-Iowa

Jesse Kirsch

Jesse Kirsch and Phil Helsel

CLEVELAND — From the noise, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse sounds like an Iowa home game, despite being a neutral site.

The NCAA final between the Hawkeyes and South Carolina Gamecocks has been hugely hyped, in part due to Iowa star Clark.

South Carolina can earn the 10th perfect season in Division I basketball tournament history with a win over Iowa, having never lost a game this season.

Clark already running and gunning

Caitlin Clark needs no introduction, and needed less than 5 minutes to record 13 points in her final collegiate game. This burst out of the gate for the Iowa senior is particularly notable because during Friday night’s Final Four, it took an entire half for her to get to just six points.

Clark's done it from all over the court, already with two 3-pointers, points from the paint and in the midrange.

Iowa sinks the first shot

Kate Martin with the Hawkeyes sunk a three to earn Iowa the first points on the board after South Carolina won the tipoff and missed its first shot.

Women of NASA on the court

The women of NASA are holding the American flag on the court during the national anthem minutes before tipoff.

"@astro_watkins and some of the incredible women at NASA kicked off the @MarchMadnessWBB Championship Game!" NASA Administrator Bill Nelson posted on X.

"They represent our amazing workforce who enable us to inspire through discovery."

It's an Iowa crowd in Cleveland

Jesse Kirsch

Will Ujek

Jesse Kirsch and Will Ujek
NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
A general view of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland on Sunday.Thien-An Truong / Getty Images

CLEVELAND — The crowd in the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is clearly pro-Iowa, proving to be far louder as chants of "Go Hawks" echo throughout the arena with the band playing in the background during team warmups on the court.

Keys for Iowa to win

The Associated Press

For Iowa to win its first national championship here are a few keys:

Clark effect

Clark has always seemed to play her best on the brightest stage. She had 41 points, eight assists and six rebounds in the win over South Carolina last year in the Final Four. Her coach has run out of words to describe her brilliance on the court. She’ll need to have one more big game for Iowa to have any hope of capping off her historic career with a national championship. South Carolina has the length and athleticism as well as the depth to make Clark work for her shots.


Iowa averages 41.6 rebounds a game, about five less than South Carolina. The Hawkeyes can’t let South Carolina dominate the boards like they did last year when the Gamecocks outrebounded them 49-25. This season they’ve punished opponents with easy putbacks and that would be tough for Iowa to overcome.

“I think going into that game last year, to say we’re going to beat South Carolina on the glass is probably something that’s not going to happen every single time we play them. But you have to be able to manage it the best you can,” Clark said. “And I think we did that versus LSU, and that’s where you get confidence from is just you kind of weather the storms on the glass, you try to come up with big ones when you can.”

Women's championship expected to shatter viewership records

The NCAA women’s basketball national championship is set to smash viewership records as star players and greater TV coverage drive more fans than ever to the sport.

On Saturday, TickPick said the “get-in” price for today's women’s final was $555 — a record.

Read the full story here.

Clark had been invited to Team USA training camp

Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark was invited to Team USA’s women’s basketball team training camp, but her team’s appearance in the Final Four and championship berth meant that she couldn’t attend.

Iowa beat Colorado on March 30 and LSU two days later to advance to the Final Four game held Friday, when they beat UConn 71-69. The training camp was held Wednesday to Friday. 

The training camp is one step in Team USA’s process for selecting members to play for USA in Paris this summer, the Olympics said in its announcement of the invitation.

Clark said last week that she was honored to be extended the invitation.

“People that are on that roster are people that I idolize and have idolized growing up. Just to be extended a camp invite is something you have to be proud of and celebrate and enjoy,” she said, according to The Associated Press.

Clark broke plenty of records this season, establishing herself as a college basketball great

It's been quite the season for Caitlin Clark.

The Hawkeyes guard spend her senior year sinking threes and breaking records. Here's a look at all of the titles she now holds as she heads into her final college basketball game, according to the NCAA.

  • Dec. 30: Clark sets the all-time NCAA assist record and becomes the first Division I college basketball player — men's or women's — to have 3,000 or more points, 900 or more assists and 800 or more rebounds.
  • Jan. 31: Clark becomes the No. 1 scorer in Big Ten history after scoring 35 points against Northwestern.
  • Feb. 11: Clark reaches 1,000 career assists, adding her to a club of only five others to achieve the feat, but she's the only one who has scored more than 3,000 points.
  • Feb. 15: Clark passes Kelsey Plum as all-time women's Division I points leader.
  • Feb. 28: Clark scores her 3,650th point to surpass Lynette Woodward as the highest-scoring player in major-college women's basketball. She also broke the record for single-season three-pointers.
  • March 3: Clark becomes the highest scorer in Division I college basketball history for men or women, soaring past Pete Maravich’s 54-year record.
  • March 8: Clark passes Stephen Curry for most three-pointers in a single season of NCAA Division I basketball history.
  • March 25: Clark unseats Plum (again) to score the most points in a single season with 1,113 points.
  • April 1: Clark breaks Diana Taurasi’s record and now holds the title for the most three-pointers scored during the women’s NCAA tournament.

Less than an hour until tipoff

Jesse Kirsch

CLEVELAND — With less than an hour to go before the game starts, crowds are pouring in to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Iowa’s Marshall says she received ‘hate comments’ after drawing late foul vs. UConn

The Associated Press

Iowa guard Gabbie Marshall said Saturday she received “hate comments” from people upset about her role in a much-discussed foul call late in the Hawkeyes’ Final Four win over UConn.

Marshall responded by “kind of” deleting her social media apps from her phone, she said.

Referees called Huskies forward Aaliyah Edwards for an illegal screen on Marshall with 3.9 seconds remaining and UConn trailing by one. The Huskies never got the ball back as Iowa held on for a 71-69 victory Friday night and a spot in Sunday’s title game against unbeaten South Carolina.

Marshall was trying to guard UConn star Paige Bueckers when Edwards attempted to set a screen that would have freed up space for Bueckers to get off a shot. Edwards was not set — as the rules stipulate — when Marshall arrived, with the 5-foot-9 Marshall catching a portion of the 6-3 Edwards’ left elbow.

The contact was enough to draw a whistle, and Marshall was animated in her reaction, pointing down the court as if to say “our ball.”

The sequence drew plenty of criticism from fans and onlookers.

South Carolina's Raven Johnson eyes redemption

The Associated Press

Raven Johnson couldn’t stop herself. One viewing of South Carolina’s loss to Iowa in the Final Four last spring would lead to another. And another. And another.

The image of Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark waving Johnson off when the Gamecocks guard had the ball at the top of the key, as if to say “no threat,” became seared into Johnson’s mind. It hurt in ways that left Johnson wondering if she even wanted to do this anymore.

And still, she couldn’t hit pause. Or delete.

“People were like ‘Can you stop watching that game?’” Johnson said yesterday. “And I was like ‘I can’t, I just can’t.’”

It wasn’t until senior Laeticia Amihere basically staged an intervention that Johnson found the strength to move on.

“I don’t even know how she got in my room,” Johnson said. “I thought I locked the door. But she got me closer to God ... She’s really the one that really helped me get over that hump.”

A year later, Johnson believes she’s a different player. One eager for a chance at redemption on Sunday when the unbeaten Gamecocks face Clark and the Hawkeyes in the NCAA championship.

Looking back, Johnson doesn’t see all those viewings of the biggest loss of her still burgeoning career as some form of punishment. She has reframed those dark days. They weren’t torture, even if it might have felt like it at the time amid all the tears. She was growing, even if she wasn’t aware of it.

“I think I was learning from the game, learning what I could have done better, what the team could have done better,” Johnson said. “Looking at how they scouted us. Looking at how they played me. Looking at how they played my team.”

Johnson doesn’t blame Clark for giving her an ocean of space to let it fly, knowing she likely wouldn’t. It’s what Johnson would have done if the player she was guarding made just 24% of her 3-pointers, as she did as a freshman.

It didn’t matter that Johnson actually played well that night, scoring 13 points and making half of her six shots from behind the 3-point arc. She wasn’t a threat from the outside. Not consistently anyway, and she knew it.

Even worse, so did Clark.

A year later, things have changed. Johnson is 7 of 13 from 3 during the NCAA Tournament. She knocked down three of her five attempts from behind the arc in a blowout win over North Carolina State in the Final Four on Friday.

They were looks she might not have taken — heck, she didn’t take — a year ago. It’s unlikely Clark will treat her so dismissively in a rematch 12 months in the making.

“She got in the gym, and she got better, and I admire that,” Clark said. “I think that’s what makes great players great. And that’s exactly what she did.”

Johnson allowed there was a time, however brief, in the aftermath of the loss when she considered “quitting.” She never took those concerns to South Carolina coach Dawn Staley. Maybe she didn’t have to.

Staley understands the young women that arrive on campus as 18-year-olds will evolve during their time with the program. Yes, having the game’s biggest star humiliate you on the sport’s biggest stage — as South Carolina’s Bree Hall put it — was difficult. Yet Staley never worried about Johnson’s ability to turn the experience into an opportunity to grow.

“She’s in such a learning phase of her life,” Staley said. “She’s open to learning -- not just basketball, but history. She’s learning what she likes. She’s learning a pathway of who she wants to be. And she’s unafraid to go out there to say or do some things that, it will rock you a little bit, it will make you laugh, but it is who she’s becoming.”

The next step, a vital one, awaits against the Hawkeyes. Johnson admits she was “definitely hoping” for another shot at Iowa. However it goes, she is unlikely to watch it “100 times,” though she has no regret on the path she took to get back to this moment.

“Like Coach says if you don’t watch the bad stuff why watch the good stuff?” Johnson said.

And there has been plenty of “good stuff” during the 37-game win streak that Johnson and the Gamecocks will carry into the final. Her assists are up this season. Rebounds and shooting percentage, too.

The player who was “so nervous” to go out and play last spring hardly looks it this time around. The notes of encouragement she received from Amihere in the aftermath of the Iowa loss have stuck with her. The cards talked of confidence and courage. Of what it takes for a flower to bloom.

The seeds were planted during that time spent holed up in her room, a time whose lessons have propelled her forward.

“Like it made me mentally strong,” Johnson said. “I feel like if I can handle that, I can handle anything in life.”

Iowa-UConn Final Four matchup draws 14.2 million viewers, most in women’s college basketball history

Image: Connecticut v Iowa
Iowa's Caitlin Clark dribbles around Nika Muhl of the UConn Huskies in the first half during the NCAA women's basketball Final Four game on Friday.Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Iowa’s 71-69 win against UConn in Friday’s NCAA Final Four game drew 14.2 million viewers, the most in women’s college basketball history, according to ESPN.

The matchup produced the largest audience for a basketball game — college or professional — and was the second-best non-football telecast ever for the network.

Friday’s figure is higher than every World Series and NBA Finals game last year. ESPN said the game peaked at 17 million viewers.

Iowa vs. UConn bested a viewership record set just days prior when the Hawkeyes defeated LSU in the Elite Eight on Monday with 12.3 million viewers.

Read the full story here.

Kylie Kelce meets Kristin Juszczyk and fangirls over her seatmates at the women’s Final Four

Maddie Ellis, TODAY

Places Kylie Kelce has business being: the NCAA women’s Final Four.

Kylie Kelce attended the semifinals of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday, meeting plenty of people along the way.

The wife of former Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce met Kristin Juszczyk, wife of San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, at the game and posed for a selfie together.

“Finally got to run into this incredibly talented lady,” Kylie Kelce wrote over the pic, adding, “... and yes I made her do a spin so I could admire this outstanding jacket!”

Read the full story here.

ICYMI: Men's Final Four

Last night, the last standing men's teams battled it out on the court to try to earn their spot in the championship game on Monday, but only two prevailed.

In the first game, Purdue ultimately stymied N.C. State's Cinderella story and knocked out the 11-seed to advance to the championship. The Boilermakers held a steady lead throughout the entire game, proving their worth as a top seed.

Then UConn and Alabama went back and forth on the court in a tough match that saw No. 1 UConn advance to the championship game, sending the No. 4 Crimson Tide back down South.

On Monday, we'll see a battle of No. 1 seeds in Glendale, Arizona, and some real on-court talent from rising stars Zach Edey and Grant Nelson. While UConn has a bit of an edge, according to the bookmakers, it could be anyone's game.

Title game pits superstar Clark against unbeaten South Carolina

The Associated Press

Caitlin Clark
Caitlin Clark during the second half of an Elite Eight college basketball game against LSU during the NCAA Tournament on Monday.Hans Pennink / AP file

This women’s college basketball season, which has pushed the sport to unprecedented popularity, will conclude today 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.