‘The job’s not finished’: Caitlin Clark leads Iowa past LSU, into the Final Four

Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes are going back to the Final Four.

Almost exactly one year ago, LSU crushed Iowa in the national championship game. The rematch on Monday night surpassed all the hype – and there was a lot – as the Hawkeyes got revenge with a resounding 94-87 win in the Elite Eight. Despite all the accolades she already has and the history she’s already made, Clark’s 41 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds were still mind-blowing. She also had two steals and a block. Clark’s nine 3-pointers tied an NCAA Tournament record, and as you might imagine, several were from the logo.

Iowa was hot to start, as Clark hit her first 3 just 16 seconds into the game, sending a message that she was ready for this moment. Hailey Van Lith, who had been ill leading up to this game and at one point required an IV, according to the TV broadcast, was tasked with guarding Clark. Even for a perfectly healthy player, this would have been a near-impossible task.

The Hawkeyes rattled off three 3s before the game’s first timeout. Once play resumed, LSU got into a rhythm and went on a 10-0 run to take the lead at the end of the quarter.

It looked like the game was tipping in LSU’s favor in the second quarter, up until Angel Reese twisted her ankle while blocking Clark going up for a layup. The Tigers’ star landed awkwardly and briefly exited the game. She returned, but wasn’t the same force, hobbling up and down the court the rest of the night. Reese still finished with 17 points, 20 rebounds, three blocks and two steals before fouling out with 1:45 left in the game. She went 6-for-11 in the first half, but then went 1-of-10 from the field in the second.

With the game tied at halftime, Iowa came out and hit four 3s to start the third quarter. Clark had one from just left of the logo to give the Hawkeyes a 55-49 edge. At one point, LSU missed 11 straight shots, while Clark was having one of those nights, scoring 12 points in the third quarter as Iowa took a commanding 69-58 lead. 

“I mean, the shots are amazing, right?” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder told ESPN during an interview after the third quarter.

At times, it felt like Clark was simply willing the Hawkeyes to the program’s second straight Final Four, but her teammates came up in clutch moments, too. Kate Martin scored 21 points and Sydney Affolter had 16. Hannah Stuelke, who got into foul trouble early and eventually fouled out, was still able to add eight points. 

And even with LSU out-rebounding Iowa, 54-36 (including a significant 23-6 edge on the offensive boards), the Hawkeyes made more shots and frustrated the Tigers defensively.

“We knew we were going to be fine on offense, we’ve been fine on offense all year,” Clark told the broadcast after the game. “I think it was just getting stops [on defense] and being physical. They rebounded the ball really well, but we weathered every storm.”

Flau’jae Johnson, who kept the Tigers in the game, led her team with 23 points. Mikaylah Williams had 18 and Aneesah Morrow added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

One of the more popular storylines entering this game was the relationship between Clark and Reese. So much so, that Reese had to explain that she and Clark “don’t hate each other” during a press conference the day before the game. Any trash talk or rivalry between them on the court is simply because they are both fierce competitors who want to win. They are not enemies, like so many have perceived. 

This game had all the makings of a Final Four or title game matchup, but in the end, it’s the Hawkeyes who are moving on and heading to Cleveland, where they will face either JuJu Watkins and USC or Paige Bueckers and UConn in Friday’s semifinal.

“This one probably feels a little bit sweeter,” Clark said, describing her feelings about going back to the Final Four. “It’s my senior year. This group, a lot of people counted us out at the beginning of the year with the people we lost. And all we did was work really hard and to get back here is really hard. This region was loaded with so much talent and the job’s not finished.”

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her at @LakenLitman.

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