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Caitlin Clark and Iowa advance to women’s Final Four after beating 2023 champion LSU | CNN


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Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes got a rematch of last year’s national championship game and came out on top this time against Angel Reese and the LSU Tigers.



CNN
 — 

The sequel didn’t have the exact same cast as the original.
College basketball doesn’t work that way.

But the two prominent stars from the NCAA women’s basketball tournament a year ago – Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese – remained front and center in the sport.

On Monday, in a rematch of last year’s national championship game between Reese and No. 3 seed LSU and Clark and No. 1 seed Iowa in the Elite Eight, Iowa came out on top 94-87.

With the win, the Hawkeyes will advance to the Final Four. They will face either No. 1 USC or No. 3 UConn, who play later Monday in the regional final in Portland, Oregon.

The last time Clark and Reese squared off – with Reese famously waving her hand in front of her face toward Clark and then pointing to her ring finger as LSU closed in on the national title – it was the most-watched women’s college basketball game in history. The matchup in 2023 was compared to when Magic Johnson faced Larry Bird in the 1979 NCAA men’s title game.

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Reese makes a gesture in front of Clark last year.

But Johnson and Bird didn’t have a Part II (at least not in college) like Clark and Reese did.

While a rematch between Iowa and LSU was the big talker heading into the NCAA tournament, the later of Monday night’s Elite Eight matchups is compelling, too.

USC is led by freshman phenom JuJu Watkins, second in the nation to Clark in points per game this season. UConn’s star player is Paige Bueckers, who head coach Geno Auriemma recently called the “best player in America.”

“The NCAA got it right, because tonight’s women’s tournament matchups are one of the best in history!” Johnson said in a post on X.
“There is star power on all four teams, great coaching, and all have outstanding storylines on how they made it to the Elite Eight! As a basketball fan and a fan of women’s sports, this is heaven for me!”

Notably, USC and UConn are playing at the Moda Center in Portland – the site where it was discovered Sunday that the three-point lines on the court were uneven and not the same distance from the basket.

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Clark and the Hawkeyes have had a stellar tournament.

In a statement Monday, NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Lynn Holzman said the issue was corrected, and the court is now in “full compliance with NCAA playing rules.” She added what happened in Portland “was an isolated incident.”

“We apologize for this error and the length of time for which it went unnoticed,” Holzman said. “Simply put, this court did not meet our expectations, and the NCAA should have caught the error sooner.”

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the women’s bracket, undefeated and top overall seed South Carolina will face No. 3 NC State in the Final Four. Those two teams clinched their spots with wins on Sunday.

The women’s Final Four is Friday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio, and the national championship game is Sunday.

To channel the movie “This is Spinal Tap,” the amplification on this night of the NCAA tournament went to 11.

“RIP to the viewership numbers, right? It’s going to crush everything,” USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said Sunday.
“I think we would all tell you, right, it’s USC against UConn, and it’s LSU against Iowa. But star power drives narratives in athletics. It’s why the NBA took off, you know, when there were faces to it, going all the way back to Magic and Larry and Michael Jordan.”

Clark, who has the most career points in Division I history for women and men, is a generational talent. The 22-year-old is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft on April 15.

It’s not known if Reese, last year’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player, will return to LSU or head to the WNBA. Reese, who will be 22 in May, is a junior.

Watkins is just 18 years old, and the spotlight will be even brighter on her next season.

Bueckers, a 22-year-old redshirt junior who missed significant time earlier in her collegiate career because of injuries, announced in February she would return to UConn for one more season instead of opting for the WNBA.
In 2021, she became the first freshman to win the Naismith, Associated Press and Wooden player of the year awards.

This is a developing story and will be updated.





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