This has been a magical run for the Iowa Hawkeyes. After winning the Big 10, they were a two-seed in this year’s NCAA tournament bracket, they were anything but underdogs yet it still felt like they were playing uphill. Perhaps it is the disappointing results of the previous two seasons. Perhaps it is a program history that doesn’t have the greatest results.
Whatever the case may be, the Hawkeyes are entering into rare territory. Powered by Caitlin Clark, the Hawkeyes are making just their second appearance in the Final Four ever, their last being in 1993. Clark was the key to getting to the Elite Eight and there is little doubt as to her importance of getting to the Final Four.
The Caitlin Clark Show
Clark was incredible in the win over Colorado in the Sweet 16. In that victory, she posted her 11th 30-point game of the season, taking control to start the third quarter and propel Iowa to a historic victory along the way.
What she did in that game, she only amplified in the Elite Eight game against Louisville. In the battle of the birds, all of the focus shifted to Clark and with good reason. After all, she set a record that not only the women will find difficult to match, but the men as well.
Clark gave the fans in Seattle the kind of show that they will not soon forget. She put up the first 40-point triple-double in the history of not only the women’s tournament, but the men’s tournament as well. She added 12 assists and 10 rebounds on the way to her fifth triple-double of the season and the 11th in her strong career.
As we wait to find out who the Hawkeyes will face – whether that be South Carolina or Maryland – eyes will be on Clark until the game on 3/31. It is the kind of performance that happens once-in-a-lifetime (or never, in this case).
Clark has been a dominant force the entire season, earning consensus first-team All-American accolades. She not only posted the 11th triple-double of her career, but the first 30- and 40-point triple-double in the history of the Women’s March Madness tournament.
Caitlyn Clark is the first woman in NCAA Tournament History to record a 40 point Triple-Double‼️😳
Iowa defeated Louisville 97-83 to advance to the Final Four.
— Fantom Sports Industries (@Fantom_sports) March 27, 2023
Blowing the Game Open
While there are other areas of the game to focus on, let’s stay with Clark for just a little longer. Louisville had managed to cut the deficit down to just one before Clark and her teammates took charge. The Hawkeyes would score the next 11 points, part of a 17-6 run, blowing the game wide open.
The crowd, which was mostly pro-Iowa, brough the near-12,000 fans roaring to their feet. The lead grew to as large as 22 before a 13-1 Cardinals run brought the game to within 10 with just over 2 minutes to go. Unfortunately for Louisville, that would be it.
Clark would exit the game with 22.7 seconds to go. She received a standing ovation and hugged her coach emotionally. Clark would then make her way around the court, holding the regional trophy over her head, finally giving the Hawkeye faithful a reason to cheer after a pair of disappointing exits the last two seasons.
Things had begun roughly for the Hawkeyes, seeing Louisville score the first eight points of the game and forcing an Iowa timeout. Clark then got going, scoring the first seven for Iowa and finishing the first quarter with 15. She was also finding open teammates, with four assists in the first 10 minutes and accounted for all 25 of Iowa’s points as they took a 25-21 lead.
IOWA FINAL FOUR BOUND FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1993 😤
No. 2 Iowa takes down No. 5 Louisville pic.twitter.com/jI2TfAPWV1
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 27, 2023
Louisville, despite blowing the hot start, managed to stick around throughout the first half. Hailey Van Lith of Louisville would finish with 27 while Olivia Cochran chipped in 20 points and 14 rebounds in strong efforts of their own.
But all of that was minimized because of the contributions of Clark. Iowa led 48-43 heading into the half and never looked back. They dominated the third quarter, growing their lead by 14 points and managed to hold off a late Cardinal surge to secure the win.
The Iowa Hawkeyes (-5.5) are going to the Final Four ‼️✅ pic.twitter.com/8yAaBmLuyP
— ClutchBet (@ClutchBetSB) March 27, 2023
Both Iowa and Clark (who is the entire story) are entering rarified air. For the Hawkeyes, it is their first Final Four appearance since 1993 and just the second in program history. On an individual level, Clark is nearly the 1,000-point club. Only four players in the history of women’s college basketball have achieved the single-season feat. Clark has 984 and will almost certainly join the likes of Maddy Siegrist, Odyssey Sims, Jackie Stiles, and Kelsey Plum.
Clark is playing like a woman possessed and the Hawkeyes are here for the ride. Can she propel the program to its first national championship game appearance and beyond? It will certainly be worth watching.
Iowa NCAAW are now +650 to win the National Championship ‼️ pic.twitter.com/VimsDeSpDO
— ClutchBet (@ClutchBetSB) March 27, 2023
Credits on Featured Image: March 26, 2023: Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark (22) moves towards the basket during the NCAA women’s NCAA Regional Final basketball game between Louisville and Iowa at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA. Iowa defeated Louisville 97-83 to advance to the Final 4. Steve Faber/CSM (Credit Image: © Steve Faber/CSM via ZUMA Press Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images/DIGITAL LICENSE)