Iowa women’s basketball dethrones South Carolina, advances to national title game for first time in program history

The Hawkeyes defeated the Gamecocks, 77-73, in the national semifinal on Friday night.


Iowa guard Caitlin Clark fights for a ball against South Carolina center Aliyah Boston in a NCAA Tournament Final Four matchup between No. 2 Iowa and No. 1 South Carolina at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, March 31, 2023.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

DALLAS — Perfect no more.

Iowa women’s basketball took down the defending champion and undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks, 77-73, in the Final Four at American Airlines Center.

“South Carolina, unbelievable basketball team,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I’m so proud of my women, because I think they’re the only people that really believed. I don’t think anybody else, unless you were in black and gold, believed that we were going to win that game. So the women in that circle, they believed, and we prepared all week as if we were going to win this game.”

Iowa came out of the gate hot, rushing to an 8-2 lead after five minutes. The Hawkeyes led, 22-13, after the first quarter, with guard Caitlin Clark accounting for 12 of those points.

South Carolina center Aliyah Boston also picked up two fouls in the first quarter. She sat all of the second quarter, but South Carolina still found a way to close the gap. Gamecock guard Zia Cooke poured in 18 points in the first half.

The Gamecocks stayed close in the third quarter, but Boston picked up her third foul in the process. South Carolina started the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run, but Clark made two 3-pointer to put the Hawkeyes back on top.

Fifth-year senior Monika Czinano got into foul trouble near the end of the game, as well, and checked out with just under six minutes remaining in the game. She checked back in with just under four minutes remaining.

And as the game clock ticked to zero, the Iowa women’s basketball team swarmed the court, screaming in celebration. Because for the first time in program history, Iowa women’s basketball will appear in the national title game.

“Probably everybody in America picked South Carolina, deservedly so,” Clark said. “They’ve been ranked No. 1 all year. They’ve won 42 straight basketball games. Why wouldn’t you pick them? But at the same time, the people in our locker room believed in us. That’s all you need is a belief in one another, a confidence in one another.”

A crucial offensive rebound

The Hawkeyes knew they were going to struggle on the rebounding front against the Gamecocks. Going into Friday, South Carolina grabbed a staggering 48 percent of all available rebounds through the season.

The Hawkeyes were heavily outrebounded, 49-25, by the Gamecocks on Friday.

But the most crucial rebound came when the Hawkeyes most needed it — forward McKenna Warnock collected the ball after a missed 3-pointer from Clark with less just 18 seconds left in the game, stopping the shot clock and forcing the Gamecocks to foul.

“I understand South Carolina got 25 O-boards, but there was one that mattered the most, and that was McKenna Warnock’s,” Clark said. “And that sealed the deal for us, and we were able to make free throws.”

Clark carries Hawkeyes to victory

Clark, the National Player of the Year, accounted for over 80 percent of Iowa’s offense in the first half, dropping 19 points and six assists.

She finished the game with 41 points — the most in national semifinal history — as well as six rebounds and eight assists.

“It’s really special,” Czinano said. “Obviously, we get to see all the work she puts in each and every day. So when she wins this awards and is doing all this stuff, it’s not surprising to any of us. We see what goes on behind the scenes. The way she’s grown as a teammate and a leader on this team has been really special.”

Clark, who has 1,025 points this season also broke the Big Ten record for most points in a season. Former Hawkeye Megan Gustafson held the old record with 1,001.

Up next

The Hawkeyes will be the first Iowa basketball team in 57 years to appear in a national title game.

Second-seeded Iowa will take on third-seeded LSU in American Airlines Center at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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