Womens Hoops

NCAAW: The intensity builds as Clark, Iowa head to Final Four

NCAAW: The intensity builds as Clark, Iowa head to Final Four

It was a moment to savor for the Iowa Hawkeyes as they dethroned the team that defeated them in last year’s national championship game, punching their ticket to the Final Four in Cleveland with a 94-87 victory over the LSU Lady Tigers. It was most-watched women’s basketball game in history, with an estimated audience of 12.3 million viewers.

After a back-and-forth battle through a first half that ended tied at 45—and with both Angel Reese and Flau’jae Johnson playing absolutely magnificently for LSU—the Hawkeyes were able to outscore the Lady Tigers 24-13 in the third quarter. Caitlin Clark’s performance of 41 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine 3-pointers was a major catalyst that helped carry the Hawkeyes back to the Final Four for the second year in a row.

Now the Hawkeyes will face another high-profile team and player in the national semifinal, meeting the UConn Huskies and Paige Bueckers after they defeated JuJu Watkins and the USC Trojans 80-73.

The buildup for this matchup is just as intense as it was for the rematch with LSU, as it will be compelling to watch Clark and Bueckers—two of the most accomplished players in the game who can score with tremendous range and also be effective on the defensive end—battle.

As has been stated before, it is incumbent on the other Hawkeyes to step up and contribute, not leaving everything to Clark. They have done a pretty good job of that thus far, with the game against LSU being the most obvious example. The fierce tandem of the “glue” Kate Martin and Syd Affolter, who has been starting in place of the injured Molly Davis, has been tremendous in both scoring and rebounding. Martin finished the game with 21 points and six rebounds. Affolter came away with 16 points and five rebounds. They mirror each other when it comes to playing with grit. If they can contend with the rebounding prowess of Bueckers and Aaliyah Edwards and do a lot of the dirty work, then the Hawkeyes will be in good shape.

Then there is Hannah Stuelke, who finished with eight points and five rebounds. While she was at times overmatched by Reese, she held her own. And when in transition, she can score in bunches off good feeds from Clark. Against UConn, she will have to contend with one of the top…

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