NCAA women’s final: South Carolina defeats Iowa to complete unbeaten season


The Gamecocks completed an undefeated season and captured their third national title in seven years, defeating Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes 87-75 in Sunday’s NCAA Women’s Championship Game. South Carolina got strong play from its bench to offset Clark’s 30 points.

South Carolina added a title to go with crowns in 2017 and 2022, becoming the fifth program to win three national championships.

CHAMPIONS 🤙— South Carolina Women’s Basketball (@GamecockWBB) April 7, 2024

South Carolina (38-0) became the 10th women’s team in Division I basketball history to finish the season unbeaten and the first since Connecticut in 2016. The other programs to have an unblemished mark from wire to wire are Baylor, Tennessee and Texas. UConn did it six times, Baylor went unbeaten in 2011-12, Tennessee was undefeated in 1997-98 and Texas went unbeaten in 1985-86, according to ESPN.

Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley, who never won a national title as a player despite competing in three Final Fours, is the fifth head coach with at least three national crowns, ESPN reported.

Iowa finished its season at 34-5. The Hawkeyes had ended South Carolina’s bid for a national title in last year’s semifinals.

Sunday’s contest marked the ninth time that the top two teams in The Associated Press poll have met in the title game and the first time since 2015, ESPN reported. The No. 1 team has now won eight of the last nine matchups and seven in a row.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS HAS A NICE RING TO IT 🏆— South Carolina Women’s Basketball (@GamecockWBB) April 7, 2024

Despite Clark’s heroics — she had five assists and eight rebounds to go with her 30 points — it was South Carolina’s depth that led to victory. Freshman Tessa Johnson came off the bench to score 19 points and MiLaysia Fulwiley added 9. South Carolina’s bench accounted for 37 points; Iowa’s bench players did not score.

Starting center Kamilla Cardoso had 15 points,15 rebounds and three blocks for the Gamecocks. Guard Te-Hina Paopao added 14 points.

Kate Martin had 16 points for the Hawkeyes.

The Gamecocks opened a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Iowa trimmed it to 80-75 with slightly more than four minutes to play. But the Gamecocks went on a 7-0 run to ice the game.

South Carolina opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 53-46 lead and extended it to 10 points, 65-55, with 2:34 left in the third period. They held a nine-point advantage, 68-59, heading into the final quarter.

There were five ties and three lead changes in the second quarter, with both teams shooting better than 45% from the field.

Raven Johnson gave the Gamecocks a 49-46 lead at the half when she stripped Clark of the ball and converted a layup.

The Gamecocks came alive in the second quarter, outscoring Iowa 29-19 and holding Clark to a 3-pointer. Twenty-two of South Carolina’s points came off the bench in the first half as the Gamecocks took a 49-46 lead at the intermission.

South Carolina, trailing by as many as 11 in the first quarter, had tied the game at 27 with 8:21 left in the half, but Iowa regained the lead with a 3-pointer on its next possession. The Gamecocks tied the game again at 34 with 5:57 left in the half.

South Carolina had only trailed after the first quarter four times this season but was losing by seven after one period.

Iowa started the game red hot, with Clark scoring 18 of the Hawkeyes’ 27 first-quarter points. That was the most points scored in a quarter by a single player in a championship game. Clark broke the record of 16 that she shared with LSU’s Jasmine Carson, according to The Athletic.

Caitlin Clark has 18 points after one quarter in the NCAA women’s title game. South Carolina has 20 as a team.

It’s the most points in a quarter by a single player in championship game history.

🎥— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) April 7, 2024

She scored 16 points against South Carolina in the fourth quarter of last season’s semifinal, while Carson scored 16 against the Hawkeyes in last year’s title game.

Iowa scored the game’s first 10 points and led 20-9 before South Carolina got untracked with an 11-2 run.

For the champions South Carolina, two players got their starts in metro Atlanta.

Raven Johnson attended Westlake High School, where she led the Lions to four state championships. She also won the 2020 Naismith Player of the Year.

Add another title to her resume!
Congrats to former @wsbtv Athlete of the Year @HollywoodRaven!
She is now a NCAA Champ with South Carolina!
Congratulations!— Nelson Hicks (@NelsonHicksWSB) April 8, 2024

Sania Feagin attended Forest Park High School, where she led the Panthers to a 6A state championship in 2020 and a 5A runner-up finish in 2021.

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