Caitlin Clark and the women advance to the Final Four after defeating Iowa 2023 champion LSU.



CNN

The sequel doesn't have the same cast as the original. College basketball doesn't work that way.

But a year ago the two main stars of the NCAA women's basketball tournament — Iowa's Kaitlyn Clark and LSU's Angel Reese — were front and center in the game. Monday night, they're both busy, but the sharp-shooting Clark is the one playing.

Clark scored 41 points — including going 9-of-20 from three-point range — to go along with 12 assists and seven rebounds, the No. 1 Iowa no. 3 topped LSU 94-87, a rematch of last year's NCAA title game. To advance to the final four for the second season in a row.

“The job's not done,” Clark told ESPN on the court after the win.

Next to Iowa, there's a program similar to winning the Final Four and national championships: No. 3 UConn held off JuJu Watkins and No. 1 USC 80-73 in the regional final in Portland, Oregon.

It's the 11-time national champion Huskies' 23rd Final Four appearance under head coach Geno Auriemma — and 15th in the last 16 NCAA Tournaments. It was the third Final Four appearance for UConn star Paige Bueckers, who missed last season with a torn ACL.

UConn, which has been ravaged by injuries this season and has a depleted roster, could be a highly unlikely Final Four trip.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the women's bracket, undefeated and top-seeded South Carolina will face No. 3 NC State in the Final Four. Both the teams secured their places with wins on Sunday.

The women's Final Four is scheduled for Friday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio, and the national championship game is scheduled for Sunday.

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Clark, who holds the most career points in Division I history for women and men, is a generational talent. The 22-year-old is expected to go No. 1 overall in the April 15 WNBA draft.

But before the WNBA, she had one last shot at a national title.

After the game, the Iowa superstar shared a moment with Reese and LSU head coach Kim Mulkey on the handshake line.

“(Clarke) told me, 'Keep being a great player,' and I told her to continue to be a great player and raise her game and win,” Reese said.

“What did I tell her? I said, 'I'm glad you're leaving,'” Mulkey said. “I said, 'Girl, you're something else.' Never seen anything like it. ”

Is revenge on Iowa's mind after what happened last year?

“To be honest, no,” Clark said.

When Iowa and LSU faced off against each other in the Elite Eight, the matchup at MVP Arena in Albany, New York had the energy and intensity of a national championship game.

Despite rolling his ankle in the second quarter, Reese finished with 17 points and 20 rebounds before exiting with 1:45 left, earning his 10th straight double-double in the NCAA Tournament, tying the tournament record. She had four assists, three blocks and two steals.

Kate Martin added 21 points for Iowa, while Sydney Affolder had 16.

The last time Clark and Reese squared off — Reese famously waved her hand in front of Clark's face and then pointed her ring finger as LSU wrapped up the national title — was the most-watched women's college basketball game in history. . The matchup in 2023 was compared to when Magic Johnson faced Larry Bird in the 1979 NCAA men's title game.

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Tony Gutierrez/AP

Reese gestures in front of Clark last year.

But Johnson and Bird didn't have the secondary (at least not in college) that Clark and Reese did.

He surpassed Oklahoma's Taylor Robertson to break the NCAA's all-time record for three-pointers made in a career during Monday's game.

Clark tied the NCAA Tournament record for most assists (140) and three-pointers (70) in 15 career games.

It is unknown whether Reese, last year's Final Four player, will return to LSU or head to the WNBA. Reese is a junior who turns 22 in May.

“I'll make a decision when I'm ready,” Reese told reporters after the game.

While the rematch between Iowa and LSU was the big talk of the NCAA tournament, Monday night's Elite Eight matchup was the most compelling.

USC's Watkins, just 18 years old, is second in the nation behind Clark in points per game this season. On Monday in Portland, he set the record for most points scored by a rookie in a season while going for 29 points and 10 rebounds.

But the Huskies prevailed, and Beukers, recently hailed by Auriemma as “America's best player,” led her team with 28 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Beukers, a 22-year-old redshirt junior, Announced in February She will return to UConn for one more season instead of opting for the WNBA.

In 2021, Naismith became the first freshman to win the Associated Press and Wooden Player of the Year awards.

“So happy and proud of this team,” Bookers said. “I'm so proud. We shouldn't be here, we're here.

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Notably, USC and UConn were playing at the Moda Center in Portland — the site that was discovered Sunday. Three-point lines on the court are uneven And not the same distance from the basket.

In a statement Monday, NCAA vice president for women's basketball Lynn Holzman said the issue has been resolved and the court is now “in full compliance with NCAA playing rules.” What happened in Portland was “an isolated incident,” he said.

“We apologize for this error and the fact that it was overlooked,” Holzman said. “Simply put, this court did not meet our expectations, and the NCAA should have caught the error sooner.”

To channel the movie “This Is Spinal Tap,” the NCAA tournament night turned the multiplier up to 11.

“RIP to audience numbers, huh? It’s going to crush everything,” USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said Sunday.

“I think we'll all tell you, it's USC against UConn, and LSU against Iowa. But star power drives the stories in athletics. That's why the NBA took off, you know, when it had faces, going back to Magic and Larry and Michael Jordan.

“The NCAA got it right, because tonight's women's tournament is one of the best in history!” Johnson said A post on X.

“All four teams have star power, great coaching, and great storylines for how they made it to the Elite Eight! As a basketball fan and a fan of women's sports, this is heaven for me!”

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