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South Carolina Defeats the Iowa Hawkeyes 87-75 to Claim the Women's College Basketball National Championship

South Carolina Gamecocks take the 2024 National Championship over Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes

Steph Chambers/Getty Images

It’s the matchup many wanted to see between the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks (37-0) and the Iowa Hawkeyes (34-4). The Gamecocks are led by the talented Brazilian center Kamilla Cardoso who looks to lead South Carolina to clinch their third national title (2017, 2022).

The Gamecocks looked to avenge their only loss of the last two seasons (73-1), which came against the Hawkeyes led by the superhuman sharpshooter Caitlin Clark in the Final Four last year where she was otherworldly recording 41 points, and eight rebounds, to go with six assists in the Hawkeyes 77-73 victory.

A win would put South Carolina's legendary head coach Dawn Staley in an exclusive club to become the ninth coach (men or women) to go undefeated and win the national title. These are the others:

  • Geno Auriemma (UConn Women six times)

  • John Wooden (UCLA Men four times)

  • Pat Summit (1998 Tennessee Women)

  • Kim Mulkey (2012 Baylor Women)

  • Jody Conradt (1986 Texas Women)

  • Phil Woolpert (1956 San Francisco Mens)

  • Bob Knight (1976 Indiana Mens)

  • Frank McGuire (1957 North Carolina Mens)

Meanwhile, Clark hopes to capitalize on her illustrious college career where she became the Division I all-time scoring leader, hoping to lead the Hawkeyes to win their first national title in program history under head coach Lisa Bluder who’s also looking to win her first national championship in 40 seasons as a head coach with this being her 24th season with the Hawkeyes.

Legacies looking to be cemented and enhanced… It all comes down to this.

1st Quarter

Iowa got off to a scorching hot start scoring the initial 10 points of the game before a Cardoso scored a bucket to put the Gamecocks on the board. The Hawkeyes were attacking with no margin of error as they looked more than ready for the big game.

Clark had 13 consecutive points for the Hawkeyes after their first seven points to make it a 20-9 game, looking determined to redeem their loss in the title game last year against LSU.

The crowd was electric, the energy infectious with the Hawkeyes coming out gun blazing on all cylinders.

Despite Iowa’s blistering start, the Gamecocks crashing the boards for second chance opportunities helped keep them in the game as 12 of their first 15 points came from in the paint.

South Carolina freshman guard, Milaysia Fulwiley, was the primary reason for the Gamecocks 9-2 run in as the first quarter progressed to make it 22-18 from dribble penetration to hitting pull-up jumpers.

Clark though was just a woman on a missing, scoring 18 points in the first, the most ever in a quarter for a championship game as she seized the moment of her college finale.

The Hawkeyes' start in the first was the polar opposite of their start against UConn in the Final Four, committing only one turnover in the first, shooting the ball at a 53% clip from the field, and holding the Gamecocks to 39% in the first.

Clark’s 18 points in the first also helped her become the NCAA’s all-time tournament scoring leader in women’s college basketball history.

2nd Half

The second quarter saw the Gamecocks make adjustments and come out aggressive in the second going on a 6-0 run. It was a back-and-forth slugfest with the team trading baskets after South Carolina’s initial punch.

South Carolina eventually took their first lead of the game midway through the second and the back-and-forth display of action was riveting, everything you could want in a title game.

The Gamecocks did deal with some foul trouble early on with Bree Hall, Tessa Johnson, and Asklyn Watkins all with two fouls. Despite the foul trouble, South Carolina’s depth showed as every player could create for themselves or others.

One of the biggest adjustments after the first was South Carolina guard Raven Johnson being the primary defender on Clark after her blistering first-quarter start, being up in Clark's airspace, and fighting tirelessly over screens to have Clark go 5-of-20 the rest of the way after the first.

Johnson would have two crucial steals down the stretch of the first half with one on Clark to swing the momentum back in South Carolina’s favor to give them their first lead 49-46 heading into the half.

She got her revenge on what many called “Raven’s Revenge Tour” this season after Iowa defeated South Carolina in the Final Four and Clark didn’t respect her offense by backing up by letting her shoot jumpers last season that went viral.

Both teams shot an absurd percentage from three in the first half with Iowa shooting 60% and South Carolina 45%.

2nd Half

Similar to the second, South Carolina came out on a 6-0 run to get the ball rolling to start the second half. The others for Iowa from Hannah Stuelke (the unsung Final Four hero) running the lane hard to Kate Martin being a midrange maestro. 

However, South Carolina’s plethora of elite shooters such as freshman guard Tessa Johnson who scored a career-high 19 points on 7-of-11 from the field and 3-of-6 from three were crucial to breaking open the game as it seemed she couldn’t miss.

The game seemed to be slipping away from the Hawkeyes as South Carolina kept increasingly getting hot from beyond the arc from Johnson to senior Oregon transfer Te-Hina Paopao (14 points) who both hit three threes apiece to combine for six made threes.

The Gamecocks would push their lead to 13 with just over eight minutes left. The pressure seemed to rattle the Hawkeyes as they struggled to find any rhythm offensively and converting on free throws.

Iowa would quickly get back into the game though, going on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to six to make it 76-70 with plenty of time in the fourth.

Hawkeye guard Gabbie Marshall came up with a huge hustle play to Sydney Affolter for a three-point play that helped make 80-75 moments later with a little over four minutes left to play.

The size, skill, and athleticism of South Carolina would seemingly be too much for the Hawkeyes pushing their lead back up to 12 with just seconds remaining. Why Bluder didn’t put Stuelke back in way earlier before the game blew open for the inexperienced freshman forward Addison O’Grady was questionable, to say the least.

South Carolina’s bench scoring discrepancy over Iowa’s was appalling, outsourcing their bench a jarring 37-0 with their freshman Fulwiley and Johnson contributing 28 of those 37 bench points.

The Gamecocks frontcourt was also dominant with projected top-five WNBA Draft pick Kamilla Cardoso finishing with a dominant performance with 15 points, 17 rebounds, and three blocks along with Chloe Kitts with 11 points and 10 boards.

The Gamecocks' size down low and athleticism on the perimeter was seemingly too much for Clark and the Hawkeyes to overcome.

South Carolina eventually took the game 87-75 to become the fifth program in women’s college basketball history to win three or more national championships and putting Staley in that elusive company mentioned earlier, becoming the third women’s head coach to go undefeated and win a title and ninth overall (men or women).

This also was a bitter end of the Caitlin Clark era in women’s college basketball and the Iowa Hawkeyes program for a player who’s uplifted the sport more than any player in history… Check the ratings.

Losing in the national title game back-to-back years is a bitter way to go out after a historic career where she broke many records, revolutionized the game, and more. Still, we'll never forget her indelible mark on women’s college basketball. Get ready WNBA because a great one is coming.

Even Dawn Staley gave homage to Clark's brilliance.

In the end, congrats once again to South Carolina on capping off a historic undefeated season in what was a record-setting year for women’s college basketball.


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