SEATTLE — Even by Caitlin Clark standards, that was pretty special.
The junior superstar played a role in nearly every Iowa basket, scoring 41 points and handing out 12 assists and collecting 10 rebounds as second-seeded Iowa defeated Louisville 97-83 to book a trip to the Final Four on Sunday.
It’s the first time the Hawkeyes have been to the Final Four since 1993, and the first under 23-year coach Lisa Bluder. And it was the fifth triple-double of the season for Clark, who leads the nation in assists per game and is third in scoring.
After Louisville opened up an 8-0 lead and forced Iowa to call a timeout, it was pretty much The Caitlin Clark Show.
She went on a 7-0 run by herself, torching the Cardinals in the first half. She scored 22 on 7-of-11 shooting in the first 20 minutes, also out 8 assists. She scored or assisted on all of Iowa’s 25 points in the first quarter, and didn’t cool off much in the second quarter. The Hawkeyes shot 55% from the field the first half, hitting nine 3s.
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Iowa used a 30-point third quarter to pull away in the second half.
The win is especially gratifying for a veteran Iowa group — Sunday marked the 90th start together for the Hawkeyes’ starting five, the most in Division-I over the last 20 years — after they failed to get out of the second round last year. Iowa was upset on its home floor by 10th-seed Creighton, robbing viewers of the chance to watch the player who regularly pulls up from the logo.
It’s also noteworthy for Bluder. Four years ago the Hawkeyes had another player of the year in forward Megan Gustafson, a double-double machine who never made it to the Final Four. In 2019, Gustafson’s senior year, the Hawkeyes got thumped by No. 1 seed Baylor in the Elite 8.
Iowa was better than Louisville in almost every facet of the game Sunday, shooting 54% from the field to the Cardinals’ 43%. They hit 16 3s and totaled 20 assists.
Hailey Van Lith led the Cardinals with 27 points.