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South Carolina beats Caitlin Clark, Iowa, in NCAA championship game to complete undefeated season



Caitlin Clark came up just short of adding an NCAA championship to her otherwise unprecedented résumé, as South Carolina completed an undefeated season with a hard-fought victory over Iowa in Sunday’s championship game.

Clark set multiple records during her 30-point performance, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the size and depth of top-seeded South Carolina, which dominated down the stretch of its 87-75 win at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The win made South Carolina (38-0) the 10th undefeated national champion in NCAA women’s basketball history, and the first to achieve the feat since UConn in 2016. With the victory, South Carolina avenged last season’s 77-73 loss to Iowa in the Final Four, which ended a bid for a perfect season.

The Gamecocks now boast three NCAA titles, all under coach Dawn Staley, having also won championships in 2017 and 2022. They’re the fifth program to win at least three championships.

This year’s title did not come easily.

Iowa jumped out to a 10-0 lead, a run punctuated by Clark’s first 3-pointer of the afternoon. That basket kicked off a historic start by Clark, who scored 18 points in the opening period, setting a record for the most ever in a single quarter of a championship game.

The Hawkeyes led, 27-20, after that first quarter, during which Clark shot 5-of-8 from the field and 3-for-4 on 3-point attempts.

But Clark cooled off considerably. She scored only three points in the second quarter and four points in the third, struggling to get much going on possessions she was guarded by Raven Johnson.

Clark finished 10-of-28 from the field and 5-of-13 on 3-point attempts to go along with eight rebounds, five assists and four turnovers.

South Carolina outscored Iowa by 10 points in the second quarter, six in the third, and opened up a game-high 14-point advantage with 7:44 remaining in the game. The Gamecocks’ bench outscored Iowa’s 37-0.

Tessa Johnson led South Carolina with 19 points off the bench, while Kamilla Cardoso, a 6-7 center and top WNBA prospect, contributed 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Iowa unleashed an 8-0 run to cut its deficit to 76-70 with under six minutes remaining, and trailed by as few as five points at the 3:03 mark of the fourth quarter.

But Cardoso took over from there, blocking an Addison O’Grady lay-up attempt on one end, then corralling an offensive rebound and scoring on a put-back on the other, giving South Carolina an eight-point lead with 2:30 remaining.

The loss concludes a stellar four-year collegiate career for Clark, who is widely expected to be selected first overall by the Indiana Fever in next week’s WNBA Draft in Brooklyn.

Clark, 22, achieved numerous momentous milestones this season, passing Kelsey Plum as the leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history; Lynette Woodard as the top scorer in major-college women’s basketball; and Pete Maravich as the NCAA’s all-time scoring champion.

On Sunday, Clark became the NCAA Tournament’s all-time leading scorer, passing the Queens-born Chamique Holdsclaw, who totaled 479 points during her four seasons at Tennessee.

Clark and Iowa also lost in the national championship game last year, falling to Angel Reese-led LSU.

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