The Iowa Hawkeyes are heading to the nationwide title sport. In probably the greatest performances in Last 4 historical past, Caitlin Clark placed on a present to steer the Hawkeyes to a 77-73 lead over the South Carolina Gamecocks, which bounced the defending champions from the NCAA Event and handed them their first loss in 42 video games.
The story of the primary half was the Clark and Monika Czinano duo torching the vaunted South Carolina protection whereas Zia Cooke cooked and the Gamecocks pummeled the Hawkeyes on the offensive glass. Iowa led after one quarter, 22-12, because of Clark and their uptempo offense oftentimes catching SC’s protection on its collective heels. And to make issues worse for Carolina, late within the first quarter, Aliyah Boston picked up her second foul, which led to her getting benched for the remainder of the half.
The bench got here up large in Boston’s absence, although, notably Laeticia Amihere and Kamilla Cardoso. With Boston sitting and watching the pair mixed for 14 factors and, crucially, 9 offensive rebounds off of the bench within the first half, with these additional possessions oftentimes resulting in factors.
By the point the break rolled round, the Hawkeyes discovered themselves holding onto a 38-37 lead behind a 19-point, 6-assist half from the Nationwide Participant of the Yr. South Carolina, in the meantime, received 18 factors and 5 boards from Cooke.
Iowa got here out of the locker room and caught fireplace immediately, scoring the primary 10 factors of the second half. Daybreak Staley took a threat early on within the body, as Boston picked up her third foul with 7:41 remaining within the quarter however remained within the sport. The defending champions managed to maintain the Hawkeyes inside arm’s attain, however nonetheless, the 59-55 deficit marked solely the second time all yr that South Carolina discovered themselves trailing after three.
Whereas the Gamecocks began the fourth with 4 straight factors to take the lead, Clark responded with a haymaker. Iowa instantly went on a 7-2 run, with Clark pulling up from distance twice and establishing Czinano for a layup to regain the lead and construct a cushion.
However the Hawkeyes may by no means fairly put Carolina away, even when their offense would hit a chilly spell. After a Raven Johnson three with 4:21 left within the fourth — the precise shot that Iowa’s protection was prepared to surrender all evening — South Carolina went almost three minutes with no basket. To compensate for it, their protection buckled down and restricted the Hawkeyes to just one made subject aim in the identical time frame, a layup by Clark with 3:32 remaining.
A made free throw by Boston with 1:37 broke the chilly spell, giving Iowa a 71-69 lead. Clark and Cooke traded layups as the sport entered its closing minute, and with lower than seconds left, Clark launched from behind the three-point line in the hunt for a dagger.
The ball went out and in, however in fairly the coincidence, an offensive rebound seemed prefer it was going to slam the door shut on the Gamecocks. McKenna Warnock reeled within the miss and received the ball to her celebrity guard, who was fouled and made it a two-possession sport on the free throw line. Whereas Johnson scored on the following possession, Clark, who scored or assisted on each basket Iowa scored within the fourth, took care of enterprise on the free throw line to ice the win.
Clark went for 41 factors, eight assists, and 6 rebounds within the win, whereas Czinano went for 18 factors. Cooke’s 24 factors and eight rebounds led the best way for the Gamecocks, whereas Cardoso had 14 factors and 14 rebounds off the bench.
To place Clark’s historic scoring output this match and the Massive Ten match in perspective, she’s now outscored the Iowa soccer crew’s complete 2022 output this postseason.
Caitlin Clark has scored extra factors in postseason play (235) than Iowa Soccer scored all season (230).
— Mallory Hartley (@malloryhartley) April 1, 2023
Earlier in the night, LSU took down Virginia Tech to earn a spot within the nationwide championship sport. The Tigers and the Hawkeyes will go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon.