Home News South Carolina tries to finish off perfect season when it faces Caitlin...

South Carolina tries to finish off perfect season when it faces Caitlin Clark, Iowa in women’s title game


CLEVELAND — Dawn Staley knows Sunday’s national championship game is a big moment for women’s basketball.

South Carolina is looking to finish a perfect season with the program’s third NCAA title. Standing in the way of Staley and the Gamecocks is a generational player in Caitlin Clark and an Iowa team looking for the school’s first women’s national championship.

“It’s a monumental game for our game. We’re very fortunate to be a part of it,” said Staley, the AP coach of the year. “We get to witness firsthand the legacy of Caitlin Clark. You watch her. You prep for her. You can’t help but to really love how she dissects the game. You love how she executes.”

Clark has done nearly everything she can at Iowa — except win a national championship. She’s the NCAA Division I career scoring leader, holds numerous other records and has powered Iowa into the title game in two straight years.

All that’s left is one more victory over the team that Iowa eliminated in the national semifinals last season.

“I think to bring back a national title to the University of Iowa would be super special,” Clark said. “Obviously it’s special in its own regard, making back-to-back national title games. I know everybody would come up to me before the season started and was, like, only one thing left to do. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to get to this point. So I’m just proud of our group.”

Clark said her legacy won’t be defined by what happens Sunday afternoon. To her, it’s more about the lives she has affected.

“I’ve played basketball at this university for four years, and for it to come down to two games and that be whether or not I’m proud of myself and proud of the way I’ve carried myself and proud of the way I’ve impacted people in their lives, I don’t think that’s a fair assessment,” she said.

Clark is coming off one of her toughest games of the season. She had to work for all 21 of her points in a 71-69 victory over UConn on Friday night.

“Iowa’s a challenge. They’re playing their best basketball,” Staley said. “They’re playing inspired. They’re playing like they want to win a national championship. So are we. I think it’s a crash course of who’s going to have the better run, who’s going to be able to execute when it’s time to execute.”

South Carolina is looking to become the 10th team to complete a perfect season in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history.

It would be the first since UConn in 2016 and just might be the most surprising of the group. Staley lost all five starters from last season’s team. South Carolina had a couple scares throughout the season, but always found a way to win.

The Gamecocks have a dominant front line led by Kamilla Cardoso. Unlike last year’s game when the Hawkeyes played a zone and dared the Gamecocks to shoot from outside, South Carolina has been fantastic from behind the 3-point line. Raven Johnson and Te-Hina PaoPao have provided a solid outside shooting presence for the Gamecocks.

“I think this matchup, you can’t ask for anything better. I think it speaks to the way women’s basketball has been tremendous on all levels all throughout the year,” Clark said. “We know we have our hands full. Everybody around the country knows South Carolina has been the team all year. They’ve observed that. They’ve earned it. They’ve just been incredible.”


Iowa’s Kate Martin will share the starting lineup with Clark for the 139th time on Sunday. For a moment on Friday it looked as if she might not be able to play after she took an inadvertent elbow to the face.

Martin, who has broken her nose many times, left a trail of blood as she ran off the court to the locker room. She returned to the court before the mess was cleaned up.

On Saturday, she had a little discoloration on the side of her nose, but she said it wasn’t broken.

“That girl is tougher than nails. This is her sixth year. She starts her career off with a torn ACL and misses her freshman season. I think Kate would tell you that was the best thing to ever happen to her,” Clark said. “It gave her perspective on what basketball really is. It made her a better leader. She was a naturally born leader.”


Iowa certainly has been must-see TV for the past few years with Clark. Friday night’s semifinal win over UConn drew a record 14.2 million viewers. The game peaked with 17 million. South Carolina’s win over N.C. State had 7.1 million people watching, peaking at 9 million.

Staley hopes more people watch Sunday.

“I hope it’s the most watched game. I’ve been a part of witnessing from the outside looking into the most watched game. It’s going to be fun to hopefully be a part of it, like in the mix of things,” she said. “I hope that everybody gets exactly what they want out of it. And I just hope the viewers, the people in attendance will take tomorrow’s moment and carry it to the rest of the history of our sport. Hopefully we can keep the eyeballs and demand where it needs to be.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here