Caitlin Clark leads Iowa to the Final Four, scoring 41 points in 94-87 win over defending champion LSU


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Caitlin Clark made nine 3-pointers and finished with 41 points and 12 assists in a sensational performance Iowa eliminated defending national champion LSU from the women’s NCAA Tournament with a 94-87 victory Monday night, sending the Hawkeyes to their second consecutive Final Four.

Top-seeded Iowa (33-4) will play UConn or Southern California in the national semifinals Friday night in Cleveland.

“It probably feels a little better. This is my senior year with this group,” Clark said. “At the beginning of the year a lot of people counted us out as the ones that we missed. And all we did was work really hard to get back here. Really tough. This area was filled with a lot of talent. The work is not done.”

Monday’s much-anticipated matchup was a rematch Last year’s national championship game LSU won, drawing a record 9.9 million viewers. Both teams would have liked this meeting to have taken place later in the tournament rather than risking a spot in the Final Four, but this was beyond their control.

Clark, who also scored 41 points in last year’s regional final, and LSU’s Angel Reese put on a memorable show for the packed crowd and millions of people watching.

With the game tied at 45 after an entertaining first half, Clark took charge in the third quarter. The NCAA Division I all-time scoring leader hit four 3-pointers, each deeper than the last. His fourth-quarter shot, from his signature logo range, made it 61-52. It was also the 538th of his career, making him the all-time leader in that category among NCAA Division I players, surpassing Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson.

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FloJay Johnson scored 23 points for No. 3 seed LSU (31-6), which just missed becoming the first repeat champion since UConn in 2016. Reese finished with 17 points and 20 rebounds and fouled out with 1:45 remaining.

Iowa’s lead grew to 65–52 before LSU scored six consecutive points. The Tigers trailed 69-58 in the fourth quarter and scored the first five points to get within 69-63.

But they couldn’t get closer as Clark refused to let the Hawkeyes lose. His ninth 3-pointer, which tied an NCAA record for most in a tournament game, made it 80–69 with 5:05 remaining. She puffed out her chest and shouted to the crowd of fans as she ran back down the court.

“We really knew it was on the defensive end. We knew we’d be able to perform well on offense,” said Clark, who was named the area’s Most Outstanding Player. “We’ve been performing well on offense all year. I think it was just stopping and being physical. They rebounded the ball really well, but we weathered every storm. You have to give them a lot of credit. “He had a great year.”

Clark has already declared for this year’s WNBA Draft. Reese also must decide whether to turn professional or come back for another season.

The game started fast and both teams adopted an aggressive approach in the first quarter. Clark scored early, much to the delight of the pro-Iowa crowd. She hit a 3 to start the game and tied Diana Taurasi for most 3-pointers in NCAA Tournament history.

Iowa led 17–9 before LSU coach Kim Mulkey called timeout. It looked like his team would settle down as the Tigers outscored the Hawkeyes 22–9 in the remaining quarter, with Reese finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists along with two steals in the opening 10 minutes.

The Tigers suffered a scare in the second quarter when Reese went down trying to block Clark’s shot. She went down the baseline and walked out of the court. Trainers looked at his right ankle and he rode a stationary bike for a few minutes before returning to the game. Reese was a little slow to get on the court but otherwise appeared unaffected.

Clark broke the NCAA Tournament assist record of 136 that was held by LSU’s Temeka Johnson. Clarke currently has 140. She tied Purdue’s Courtney Moses in 2012 and UConn’s Kia Nurse in 2017 with her nine 3-pointers.

The Hawkeyes had only played in the national semifinals once before last season, and that was in 1993.

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