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South Carolina caps undefeated season with NCAA national championship win over Iowa

The South Carolina Lady Gamecocks are women’s basketball national champions once again, completing an incredible undefeated season with an 87-75 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. 

The Gamecocks were beaten by Iowa in the Final Four last year, but they got their revenge this time, overcoming an early deficit to end any debate about which team was the best in the country this season. 

This is the third women’s basketball national championship for the Gamecocks, all under head coach Dawn Staley. The first came in 2017 over Mississippi State, while the latest was two seasons ago in a win over UConn. 

Kamilla Cardoso high fives with teammates

Kamilla Cardoso of the South Carolina Gamecocks reacts in the second half of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament National Championship game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

South Carolina and Iowa go for the loose ball

Hannah Stuelke of the Iowa Hawkeyes fights for a loose ball against Chloe Kitts (21) and Kamilla Cardoso of the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first half of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament National Championship at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

For Iowa, it’s the second year in a row they had the chance to capture the school’s first women’s basketball national championship. But despite Caitlin Clark’s 30 points, they fell short again.

It felt different this time around, though, after Iowa got off to a red-hot start with a 10-0 run to open the game before South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso knocked down her first shot to get the Gamecocks on the board.

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Clark was firing on all cylinders in the first, knocking down 5-of-8 shots, including 3-for-4 from deep, for 18 points to lead the way to a 27-20 quarter victory.

However, if you’ve watched the Gamecocks all season, they have a knack for going on runs. South Carolina stormed its way back in the second quarter, winning it 29-19 to take a 49-46 halftime lead.

A lot of that had to do with Cardoso, the 6-foot-7 center who had 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. South Carolina out-rebounded Iowa, 51-29, playing a large part in the 48 to 32 points in the paint for the Gamecocks. Chloe Kitts had a double-double with 10 rebounds and 11 points as well.

Caitlin Clark with head down on court

Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts in the second half of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament National Championship game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark vs Raven Johnson

Caitlin Clark (22) of the Iowa Hawkeyes works the ball around Raven Johnson of the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first half of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament National Championship at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Iowa never gave up, knowing they could make runs of their own, especially with Clark’s ability to drain the three-ball. However, after that 18-point quarter, the Gamecocks were able to slow Clark.

She shot 5 of 20 after the first quarter, finishing 10 of 28, including 5-for-13 on three-point attempts. Clark also had eight rebounds and five assists. South Carolina’s Raven Johnson switched to become Clark’s primary defender after the first quarter, and that move proved to be for the best. 

Another big story in this game was Gamecocks freshman Tessa Johnson, who had the best game of her young career at just the right moment. Coming off the bench, Johnson knocked down 7-of-11 shots, including 3-for-6 from three-point land, for a team-high 19 points.

Iowa had zero points coming off the bench, while the Gamecocks had 37.

The Gamecocks are back on top, and moving forward, their future remains bright with freshman like Johnson and Milaysia Fulwiley. 

Bree Hall reacts on court

Bree Hall of the South Carolina Gamecocks reacts in the second half of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament National Championship game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Clark, putting together one of the best collegiate careers in any sport, is heading to the WNBA Draft. 

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