Caitlin Clark leads Iowa to the Final Four while LSU overcomes its cold shooting

Iowa advances to the final four of the Women’s NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history after Kaitlyn Clark led a 97-83 victory over fifth-seeded Louisville.

An offensive attack, perhaps, is an understatement. Clark finished with 41 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. First 40-point triple-double In any NCAA Tournament sport, men’s or women’s.

Although the Cardinals narrowed Iowa’s lead at times, the question Friday in Dallas was less about which team would advance to the national semifinals and more about what Clark would accomplish with his display on the floor.

At halftime, Clark had 22 points, 3 rebounds and 8 assists. How much more can she accumulate?

A lot, it turned out.

When Clark hit his first 3-pointer in the third quarter, Louisville’s Micasa Robinson was furious with good reason.

Clark, a finalist for the 2023 Naismith National Player of the Year Award, looked so good at the stat line that ESPN added a little “Caitlin Clark Triple-Double Alert” band to the scoreboard for its broadcast. Top points.

It doesn’t appear to be one-sided from the tip. Hailey Van Lith and Louisville came out of the gate quickly, scoring 8 points in the first two minutes before Iowa could get anything on the board.

This isn’t the first time Clarke and Van Lith have met in court. The pair teamed up while playing for USA Basketball’s under-19 team in 2019, and before Sunday’s game, Clarke called Van Lith the Cardinals’ “engine.”

At the end of the first quarter, Clark recovered the ball and flew across the court for a 3-point money shot. That started a turnover and shooting spree — another 3-pointer by Clark, a 3-pointer by Kate Martin with a turnover, and another jumper by McKenna Warnock. From there, the rest was effectively a showcase.

When Iowa built a 16-run lead in the third quarter, Clark raised his hands in the air, the conductor of the orchestra assembled in the Climate Pledge Arena. The crowd, largely dressed in black and gold, responded with deafening cheers. “You feel kind of powerful,” she laughed after the game. “It’s kind of cool.”

See also  Judge Eileen Cannon is overseeing the Trump classified documents case with an order on security clearances

The Hawkeyes lead would grow to 22 points early in the fourth.

Still, Louisville didn’t slow down. Late in the game, Robinson stole the ball from Clark and raced across the field. Response disabled. Not enough time to conduct a proper rally.

After the game, Louisville coach Jeff Walls pointed to the high score, nearly double the other regional final Sunday, as Louisiana State topped Miami. “I thought we should have scored in the 80s, but you have to tip your hat to them,” he said.

With a minute left, Clark looked around. She had come to this game more relaxed than usual. She visualized this moment over and over again. She put her hand on one ear. Then another. The crowd rose in unison.

Before the game, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said she wanted her team to approach this game like any other game. Pressure can create “some unusual behavior,” and he uses the mantra to “be us” with his team.

So Clark became Clark, and Warnock backed her up with 17 points and 5 rebounds.

The last time Clark walked around the Seattle arena, he held the regional trophy under his arm like a skateboard. There were young Iowa fans clamoring for autographs, parents begging for photos, and suddenly a security guard surrounded her.

Iowa’s last national semifinal appearance was in 1993. But Clarke and Bluder discussed getting back there, despite fierce competition at the top of the game.

“She believed in me, and that’s really important,” Clarke said as her coach nodded, the sports net around her neck.

Miami’s defense played at its peak. The Hurricanes forced Louisiana State star forward Angel Reese to miss all nine of her first-half shots in Sunday’s Round-8 matchup in the Women’s NCAA Tournament. But at halftime, LSU was up by 6 points in a game the stats suggested Miami should have dominated.

That trend continued in the second half. Despite LSU showing one of its worst shooting games of the season, the Tigers’ defense further stifled Miami, and LSU won 54-42 to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2008.

Reese, who was named the Greenville 2 Region Most Outstanding Player, posted her 32nd double-double of the season, filling the box score with 13 points, 18 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Alexis Morris led the Tigers with 21 points in a mistake-filled first half. Friday in Dallas, LSU will take on Monday’s game between No. 1-seed Virginia Tech and No. 3-seed Ohio State.

“I’m a comeback kid,” said Morris, a fifth-year senior who played at Rutgers, Baylor and Texas A&M. Wearing a basketball net he had cut around his neck and a Final Four cap, Morris added: “I overcame it. I overcame the odds.

As the confetti fell and the players cut down the net, they gathered in a circle and danced at midcourt, coach Kim Mulkey doing his best version. The popular Giridi dance. At the end of the celebration, there was Mulki Walking around the arena barefoot.

“I’d love to put a championship banner up there one day,” said Mulkey, a Louisiana native, adding: “South Carolina, I’ve said it from Day 1, incredible team and everything to beat. But I’d definitely love to be in that championship with them.

Mulkey arrived at LSU two seasons ago after 21 seasons and three championships at Baylor. The Tigers started with a largely fresh roster this season, adding nine players. Morris is the only returning starter.

See also  Manhattan DA's office slams House GOP probe, saying Trump was motivated by creating 'false expectation' of imminent arrest

“We don’t have to win a championship to see how much they love us,” Mulkey said of LSU’s fan base. “What are we doing in second year? Are you kidding me?”

Reese was one of the freshmen, transferring from Maryland in the off-season looking for a fresh start and moments like the one the Tigers got Sunday, he said.

“We’ve been underdogs all year and now to be in this moment; it’s really exciting and exciting,” he said, adding: “I think that’s important for me. And I needed Coach Mulkey. That’s what I needed.

Both teams missed more than two-thirds of their shots and made just one 3-point basket in 27 attempts, with the Tigers’ Kaderi Poole the only one after LSU was well in control. “If you sit here and tell me that LSU is going to shoot 30 percent, 8 percent from three and 57 percent from the free throw line, I think I’m cutting a net right now,” Miami coach Katie Meyer said.

Meier said he thought Miami’s defensive scheme worked and pointed to Reese’s low field goal percentage. But the strategy opened the door for Morris, whom Meyer credits as “the reason they’re out there and why I’m sitting here right now.”

Both teams had a chaotic first half on Sunday. They hit open shots, turned the ball over and struggled to find rhythm.

“If I’m watching this game, I’m going to turn it off,” Mulkey said in an ESPN interview before the fourth quarter.

The second half was not as clean. However, Reese’s rebound created second-chance opportunities for the Tigers, who used the drive to extend their lead and win.

Miami starting guards Destiny Harden and Haley Cavinder, the Hurricanes’ scoring leaders in their three upset wins in the contest, finished 1-of-15 from the field with 5 points. All of Miami’s offense came from Jasmine Roberts, who finished with 22 points and scored 18 of Miami’s first 27.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *