How one rebound was crucial in Iowa women’s basketball’s victory over South Carolina

Hawkeye senior forward McKenna Warnock pulled down a game-changing offensive rebound with 18 seconds left, sealing a 77-73 victory for Iowa.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa forward McKenna Warnock goes up for a layup in a game between No. 2 Iowa and No. 1 South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament Final Four. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gamecocks, 77-73. Warnock had five points and three assists.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

DALLAS — In the final 30 seconds of Iowa’s first Final Four game in 30 years, junior guard Caitlin Clark took a long 3-point shot.

At the time, Iowa was up, 75-73, over undefeated and defending champion South Carolina. And the Hawkeyes were on the brink of the biggest upset of the tournament.

Clark missed the shot, which almost gave South Carolina a chance to regain possession with 18 seconds left.

Then, Hawkeye senior forward McKenna Warnock stepped up.

When the ball bounced off the rim, Warnock jumped up to grab the ball, hugging it to her chest. And the Iowa women’s basketball team cheered from the sideline.

“We always want to get those O-boards, and I’m glad I could come up with that one,” Warnock said. “It kind of fell in my lap. That’s what we wanted in those moments, we wanted some of those to bounce our way.”

When the ball ricocheted off the backboard, Warnock was the only player in the area. The Gamecocks were under the basket, and the ball careened to midcourt.

“That was a long shot and a long rebound,” South Carolina center Aliyah Boston said. “Those can be really hard just based on how hard that came off the backboard, and that shot ricocheted off the backboard. It was really high, and we just weren’t in the position to get it.”

Just minutes before her game-changing rebound, Warnock was banged up. She went to the bench with a towel to her mouth, nursing what appeared to be a mouth injury.

But she refused to admit she was in pain, associate head coach Jan Jensen said. And she returned to the game for one of the biggest moments of her career.

“She was hurt,” associate head coach Jan Jensen said. “I couldn’t tell, she wouldn’t answer me when I asked, she’s tough. But last, probably, two or three timeouts, you could tell she was in pain. She was focusing, but it was kind of like this quiver lip. But you can just see in her eyes, I don’t know if she got jacked or what, but that symbolizes what she went through.”

Iowa was heavily outrebounded throughout the game, as South Carolina corralled 49 rebounds compared to Iowa’s 25. Just on the offensive side, the Gamecocks had 26 boards — more than Iowa’s rebounding total.

At the end of the game, Warnock had just three rebounds on the stat line. But she also had the one that mattered most.

“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 18 seconds of game time later, Clark chucked the ball into the air as the Hawkeyes swarmed the court. Iowa officially took down defending champion and undefeated South Carolina, 77-73.

“The people in our locker room believed in us,” Clark said. “That’s all you need is a belief in one another, a confidence in one another. We just do it for the person to our left and our right.”

Now, the Hawkeyes will play in the national title game for the first time in program history. Second-seeded Iowa will take on third-seeded LSU on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the American Airlines Center.