The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa women’s basketball notebook | Hawkeyes excited for challenge against South Carolina in national championship

Heading into the sequel, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said one of the team’s top priorities is limiting center Kamilla Cardoso.
Grace Smith
Iowa forward Hannah Stuelke smiles during a day of press conferences and open practices ahead of a NCAA Championship game between No. 1 Iowa and No. 1 South Carolina at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio, on Saturday, April 6, 2024. The Hawkeyes and the Gamecocks face off at 2:00 p.m. CT.

CLEVELAND — Iowa women’s basketball wants to send Caitlin Clark and a legendary senior class out with a national championship win against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon. 

The Hawkeyes are coming off of a 71-69 win against the UConn Huskies in the Final Four at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, where forward Hannah Stuelke led the Hawkeyes with 23 points on an efficient 75 percent shooting from the field. Friday’s game was just the second time Clark did not lead Iowa in points this season.

The reigning National Player of the Year finished the game with 21 points and nine rebounds, while fellow guard Kate Martin recorded 11 points and eight boards. 

Sunday’s matchup will be a familiar one for Iowa, as the two teams faced off in the Final Four of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Hawkeyes pulled off a historic upset against the Gamecocks with a 77-73 victory, snapping South Carolina’s 59-game winning streak that spanned over two years. 

Heading into the sequel, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said one of the team’s top priorities is limiting center Kamilla Cardoso, who leads the Gamecocks in points and rebounds per game with 14.3 and 9.5, respectively. 

“Kamilla’s been playing so well, just runs the floor beautifully, rebounds incredibly, [and] shoots the ball well,” Bluder said during Saturday’s press conference. “One person can’t stop her — There’s no way. I don’t know if two or three can stop her, to be quite honest.” 

Despite backing up former Naismith Player of the Year Aliyah Boston for much of the season last year, Cardoso played significant minutes the last time these two faced off as Boston fell into foul trouble. She finished the game with a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds and led her team with three blocks. 

In last year’s matchup, Iowa started the game strong led by Clark’s 12 points in the first quarter. The Hawkeyes maintained the lead despite South Carolina’s Zia Cooke recording 18 points in the first half. Despite trailing by four heading into the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks battled back, with guard Raven Johnson scoring eight points in the final 10 minutes and Iowa forward Monika Czinano picking up her fourth foul with less than six minutes remaining. 

But a clutch offensive rebound by forward McKenna Warnock with 14 seconds left sealed the victory for Iowa, as Warnock dished the ball to Clark, who got fouled and went 2-for-2 from the line to give the Hawkeyes a four-point lead. 

With Warnock and Czinano leaving the program, Iowa must rely on newly added starters Stuelke and guard Sydney Affotler, who played 12 and three minutes, respectively, during the team’s first matchup last March. 

Marshall said the team considers it advantageous to have so many players who played in the Final Four game last season returning for Sunday’s game. 

“I think Hannah, Sydney, Addy [O’Grady] have helped us tremendously, and they’ve kind of stepped into bigger roles this season,” Marshall said. “They know from experience how hard it’s going to take to beat this team.”

Affolter said that while this experience was valuable, she acknowledged that Sunday’s game would be different from last year’s. 

“We are a different team, and I think they are very different as well, so I think our game plan we did last year won’t have anything to do with this year,” Affotler said. “We’re just excited for another opportunity to play for a national title.” 

The Gamecocks are also a better shooting team than they were the previous season. They upgraded their three-point accuracy from 31 to 39.7 percent as they added Oregon guard Te-Hina Paopao from the transfer portal. Paopao leads the team with a 46.2 three-point percentage on 182 attempts. 

“I think last year we were able to pack the paint against them a little bit more than we will be able to this year,” Marshall said. “They have added some pieces and have become pretty good at shooting the three ball.” 

To complement their improved shooting abilities, South Carolina has some of the best post players in the country to back up Cardoso, and they are also physical, with forwards Chloe Kitts and Sania Feagin being listed at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-2, respectively. 

“Cardoso is an amazing player, [and] at 6-foot-7, she poses a big challenge for me,” Stuelke said. “I’m going to have to step up and be stronger than I’ve ever been before, and I think I’m ready for the challenge.” 

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About the Contributors
Cooper Worth
Cooper Worth, Pregame reporter
Cooper Worth is a Pregame Reporter for The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communication. He is also earning a minor in communication studies and an entrepreneurial management certificate. This is his third year at the DI, previously serving as a News Editor and as a News Reporter covering local government in Johnson County for the DI. Cooper interned for the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa during the summer of 2023 as a general news reporter.
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.