Caitlin Clark gets sweet revenge, topples LSU to reach Final Four

Caitlin Clark is now two wins away from adding a national championship to her illustrious NCAA résumé. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Caitlin Clark is now two wins away from adding a national championship to her illustrious NCAA résumé. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

For 20 minutes Monday, Iowa and LSU put on a show.

Then Caitlin Clark seized the spotlight.

The Iowa All-American and NCAA all-time leading scorer broke a 45-45 halftime tie with a deep pull-up 3 to open the third quarter. It was the first of four made 3s in the stanza for Clark as Iowa opened an 11-point third-quarter lead.

The game was effectively over from there as Iowa went on to a 94-87 win over LSU in the Albany regional final. Clark finished with 41 points and nine made 3-pointers.

The win secures a berth in the Final Four for Iowa and avenges last season’s loss to LSU in the national championship game. After a record-shattering season, Clark is now two wins away from capping her college career with an NCAA championship.

Confident Clark

Asked by ESPN’s Holly Rowe after the game what sparked her third-quarter 3-point onslaught, Clark credited her confidence.

“I think just confidence,” Clark said. “Being confident in all the work that I put in, trusting my teammates. But we really knew it was on the defensive end. We knew were going to be able to be fine on offense. We’ve been fine on offense all year.

“I think it was just getting stops and being physical. They rebounded the ball really well. But we weathered the storm.”

Sizzling first half gives way to Clark dominance in second

The Hawkeyes and Tigers were even in the first half as Clark and LSU All-American Angel Reese took co-starring roles in the most anticipated game of the season. Clark alternated deep strikes with cutting drives through the LSU defense to the basket. Reese countered with control of the paint on both sides of the court, blocking shots, stealing passes and putting back offensive rebounds for buckets.

But the second half belonged to Clark. She reset the tone with her deep 3 to open the half.

Then she hit another from near the logo as a helpless Hailey Van Lith struggled to keep up on defense.

When the quarter was done, Clark had tallied 31 points and seven made 3-pointers on 14 attempts. Iowa was in control, 69-58.

LSU punched back with a 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter. But it was the Tigers’ last gasp. Clark’s eighth 3-pointer of the night extended Iowa’s lead back to double digits, and Iowa maintained control from there.

Clark did it all on offense. When she wasn’t pulling up from deep, she put her elite playmaking on display. She finished with 41 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and two steals. She shot 9 of 20 from 3 and 13 of 29 from the field.

Reese countered with a dominant effort in the paint as she finished with 17 points, 20 rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks. But it wasn’t enough to keep pace with Clark’s scoring prowess. She fouled out on a charge with Iowa leading, 84-74, and watched the last 1:45 of the game from the bench. Reese and Clark shared a brief hug in the postgame handshake line before Iowa’s celebration ensued.

Their individual efforts were reflected in the team box score. As a team, Iowa shot 46.4% from the field and 41.9% (13 of 31) from 3-point distance. LSU won the rebounding margin, 55-37, and secured 19 more shots from the field than Iowa (88-69). But the Tigers weren’t nearly as efficient from the field on a 38.6% shooting night and 33.3% (8 of 24) effort from 3-point distance.

More records for Clark

Clark made more entries into the NCAA record book en route to the win. Her seventh 3 of the game was the 538th of her career and moved her into first all-time on the NCAA women’s career 3-point list past Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson. Her ninth tied the all-time record for 3s in a single NCAA women’s tournament game, matching Connecticut’s Kia Nurse (2017) and Purdue’s Courtney Moses (2012).

She’ll have a chance to add to that all-time tally with at least one game remaining in her career. Up next, Iowa will face the winner between UConn and USC in the Final Four.

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