Iowa’s historic season ends in disappoinment as LSU prevails 102-85 in national championship game
Iowa hampered by foul problems throughout the game
By Pat Harty
The greatest season in the history of the Iowa women’s basketball program ended in disappointment, frustration and tears on Sunday in Dallas.
A national championship game that will be remembered as much for the questionable officiating saw Louisiana State withstand a furious Hawkeye comeback in the third quarter to prevail 102-85 as LSU set a record for most points scored in a title game.
Both teams were plagued by foul problems throughout the game, but Iowa’s situation was far worse as National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls, while senior starters Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock both fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Clark finished with 30 points, but she didn’t seem to attack the basket as she normally does after having picked up her fourth foul, which came late in the third quarter when she was called for a technical foul.
Iowa cut a 21-point deficit to seven points in the third quarter, but the Tigers withstood the rally and would go on to win their first national title in program history under second-year head coach Kim Mulkey.
Iowa was also trying to win its first national title, and was playing in the championship game for the first time ever.
But it wasn’t meant to be as LSU shredded the Iowa defense, especially in the first half when it was on fire from 3-point range.
Iowa trailed 59-42 at halftime as LSU, unlike South Carolina in the semifinal on Friday, accepted Lisa Bluder’s dare to shoot from 3-point range, especially Jasmine Carson, who made all five of her 3-point shots in the first half and finished the half with 21 points.
Carson ended the first half by making an off-balance desperation 3-point shot that banked in from about 25 feet.
She hadn’t scored a point in each of LSU’s previous three games.
Clark finished the first half on the bench as she picked up her third foul just slightly beyond the midway point of the second quarter. Two of Clark’s three fouls in the first half were on offense, one in which she was called for hooking her defender on a drive, and the other for extending her arm.
The officiating was the big story in the first half as LSU All-America forward Angel Reese spent most of the second quarter on the bench after having picked up two fouls.
Iowa failed to seize the moment, however, as the Tigers built a 17-point lead with Reese on the bench, and Iowa never recovered.
Iowa was in a precarious situation heading into the third quarter trailing by 17 points.
But Iowa also has the most dynamic player in the country in Clark, who can score points in a hurry, so there was reason for hope.
Iowa would go on a 15-2 scoring run in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 75-64 heading to the fourth quarter.
That was the good news.
The bad news is that Clark, Czinano and Warnock all had four fouls after three quarters as Clark picked up her fourth on a technical foul.
She flipped the ball behind her back after Czinano was called for her fourth foul late in the third quarter and Clark apparently said something that the officials didn’t like.
Czinano would then go on to foul out early in the fourth quarter, ending one of the greatest careers in the history of the Iowa program.
She and Clark embraced in front of the Iowa bench as Czinano left the game.
Czinano’s teammates fought valiantly the rest of the way, but they just couldn’t overcome the talented Tigers.
Iowa finished the season 31-7 overall, while Clark established herself as arguably the best player in the country, and one of the best of all time.
She also set an NCAA Tournament scoring record with 191 points, and had 41 points in back-to-back wins over Louisville in the Elite Eight and against South Carolina in the semifinal.
The West Des Moines Dowling Catholic graduate also has at least one more season of eligibility, so the Hawkeyes should be a serious contender again next season, even without Czinano and Warnock.
But that is little consolation right now.