Caitlin Clark, Iowa stun unbeaten South Carolina in Final Four originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Down goes South Carolina.
AP National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark and the No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes knocked off the undefeated and defending champion No. 1 Gamecocks in the Final Four of the 2023 women's NCAA Tournament on Friday. It marked South Carolina's first loss since March of last year.
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The Hawkeyes' 77-73 win at American Airlines Center in Dallas booked the program's first trip to the national championship game, where they'll face No. 3 LSU on Sunday. The Tigers defeated No. 1 Virginia Tech in the other Final Four matchup to advance to their first national title game.
Clark, who was coming off the first 40-point triple-double in March Madness history, had yet another historic performance. The junior guard posted a tournament semifinal-record 41 points on 15-for-31 shooting from the field, adding six rebounds and eight assists. She's the first player in NCAA Tournament history with back-to-back 40-point games.
In the fourth quarter, Clark scored or assisted on all 18 of Iowa's points to close out the upset victory.
Zia Cooke led the Gamecocks with 24 points. Aliyah Boston, the previous season's National Player of the Year, posted eight points and 10 rebounds in limited action due to foul trouble.
The Gamecocks entered the highly anticipated showdown sporting an unblemished record of 36-0, with all but five of their wins coming by double digits. But Iowa actually led South Carolina for most of the Final Four matchup.
The Hawkeyes packed the paint on defense and dared South Carolina to beat them with jumpers. And the reigning champs simply couldn't make Iowa pay, hitting just four of 20 3-point shots.
The Gamecocks managed to stay in the game thanks to a dominant effort on the glass. Even with extra Iowa defenders near the rim, South Carolina tallied a staggering 26 offensive rebounds led by nine from Kamilla Cardoso, who finished with 14 points and 14 total boards. They turned those 26 extra opportunities into 24 second-chance points.
Despite having a plus-20 advantage in shot attempts, the Gamecocks only made two more field goals than the Hawkeyes. South Carolina shot just 39% overall, compared to 49.1% from Iowa, and the Gamecocks were outscored from the free throw and 3-point lines.
And even though South Carolina controlled the boards, it was Iowa that came up with the biggest rebound of the night. With the Hawkeyes leading by two inside the final 30 seconds of regulation, McKenna Warnock hauled in a game-sealing offensive rebound after a missed 3-pointer from Clark.