Sunday night’s Elite Eight matchup in Seattle can be summed up in three words: Caitlin. Freaking. Clark.
Or, just as accurately: Triple. Double. Machine. Your pick.
Clark led her second-seeded Hawkeyes, (30-6) in the program’s second Elite Eight appearance, to a 97-83 victory over the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals (26-12) Sunday night, pushing Iowa to its first Final Four since 1993.
The West Des Moines native had herself the game of a lifetime, cementing the first 40-point triple double in NCAA tournament history.
And yes, in men’s or women’s NCAA tournament history.
Clark capped off her historic evening with 41 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, and Iowa’s first trip to the Final Four in 30 years. This was Clark’s 11th triple double of her career, as she utilized her sheer un-guardability to cement her as just the fifth player to score 40 in a regional final and first since 2009.
There are truly no aspects of Sunday’s game that can’t be tied back to Caitlin Clark. She had a say in 71 of Iowa’s 97 points as the final buzzer sounded – 41 of her own and 12 dishes to teammates.
That’s over 73 percent – for those of you like me who can’t do quick math.
Her 12 assists on the evening also helped her become the first Division-I player, men’s or women’s, to eclipse 900 points and 300 assists in a single season.
Racking my brain for synonyms for historic is proving difficult, when just about everything from this game has paved a new and exciting path for college basketball. The Hawkeyes also set a program record with their authoritative Elite Eight success, securing their first season with 30+ wins and steering them to a 15-0 record when scoring 90+ points.
What sticks out as even more impressive for Clark’s – and Iowa’s – performance on Sunday is that they dominated in pretty much every statistical category against a Louisville team that was playing in their fifth consecutive Elite Eight.
The Cardinals were familiar with the feeling of playing on this big of a stage, but for Iowa, who won its fifth Big Ten Conference Tournament title earlier this season, this was only their second Elite Eight in program history.
Hailey Van Lith, who also earned a spot on the all-tournament team after notching a postseason career-best 27 points against the Hawkeyes, poured her heart and soul into Louisville’s tournament run.
Van Lith scored 20 or more points in each of the first four NCAA tournament games, the second straight season she has accomplished this feat. 729 points to cap off her junior campaign put her at fifth-most in a single season in program history.
Van Lith got the ball rolling and the energy up for the Cardinals as she always does, pushing her squad out to a quick 8-0 lead in the first minutes of action thanks to six points and an assist. She was the only player on either team to play every minute of the game, notching a team-best 27 points on just 8 of 19 shooting. She also knocked down a team-high eight free throws and dished out three assists.
Louisville’s Olivia Cochran finished with a double-double of 20 points and 14 rebounds. It was her fourth double-double of the season.
Cochran’s 14 boards moved her from No. 7 all the way up to a tie for No. 3 on Louisville’s career list for most NCAA Tournament rebounds with 79.
It was the first loss this season for Louisville when at least four players scored in double figures.
While Clark certainly did take over the court at Climate Pledge Arena – in front of 11,700 fans in Seattle (including WNBA legend Sue Bird) – the rest of the Hawkeyes squad contributed to their program’s historic win and unforgettable night.
Iowa boasted three of the five spots on the Seattle Region 4 All-Tournament Team, with Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock earning all-tournament honors and Clark as the tournament’s most outstanding player. Obviously.
Czinano, a fifth-year senior, is averaging 17.2 points and 6.6 rebounds this season, scored nine points Sunday on just two field goals while hitting five of six of her foul shots.
Warnock was Iowa’s second leading scorer with 17 on 6 of 10 shooting to go along with five rebounds.
Clark has a knack for getting calls to go her way, drawing eight or more fouls from defenders for the second straight game. Just another aspect of her game that doesn’t go unnoticed – her ability to get to the free throw line and finish through contact what appears to be effortlessly.
Iowa hasn’t lost a game since Feb. 21 to Maryland, and will be riding this hot streak straight to Dallas for the Final Four.
Get your tickets now to the Caitlin Clark Show, because they won’t last long.
Speaking from personal experience, seeing Clark work her magic in person is an essential experience for every fan of the game.
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