The No. 2 seed Iowa Hawkeyes advanced to the Final Four behind Caitlin Clark registering the first-ever 40-point triple-double in NCAAW Tournament history Sunday night at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. There hadn’t even been a 30-point triple-double before.
Clarks’ 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds allowed the Hawkeyes to impressively defeat the No. 5 seed Louisville Cardinals 97-83 and advance to their second-ever Final Four (first since 1993).
Clark was spectacular in the first half, scoring or assisting on 43 of Iowa’s 48 points.
The biggest storyline of the game was the variety of defensive coverages both Clark and Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith saw. After Louisville opened the game on an 8-0 run with Van Lith scoring six of those points, Iowa switched between a 3-2 zone and a 1-2-2 zone, both with the intent of denying the ball screens in the middle of the floor.
Once it became apparent that Van Lith and teammate Chrislyn Carr were the only scoring threats for Louisville, Iowa then switched to a triangle-and-two, denying touches to both players for the bulk of the second quarter.
However, it’s almost impossible to deny such a gifted scorer like Van Lith, and she responded in a big way, scoring 11 points in the second quarter and chipping Iowa’s lead to five points at the half. Van Lith would finish with 27 points after playing all 40 minutes for the third straight NCAA Tournament game.
As for Iowa, Clark was the answer, scoring 22 points on 5-of-9 shooting from three in the first half. Louisville lost her a few times in transition and struggled guarding her with a smaller defender; however the Cardinals did have intermittent success when doubling her with bigger wing defenders.
Louisville would cut the Iowa lead to one in the third quarter, and then the Iowa avalanche hit. The Hawkeyes would outscore Louisville 30-16 in the quarter, building the lead to 19 entering the fourth.
Louisville head coach Jeff Walz tried to employ a box and one on Clark in the second half but it did not matter. Iowa forced turnovers and Clark made difficult shots over any and every defender, leaving Walz shaking his head incredulously.
Louisville would go on a 13-1 run late in the fourth to cut Iowa’s lead to 10, but it wasn’t enough.
In addition to the historic triple-double, Clark became the first player in DI history to tally 900-plus points and 300-plus assists in a single season.
Iowa will head to Dallas to face the winner of Monday’s South Carolina vs. Maryland game.