Football and college football analyst
Caitlin Clark’s show is officially off in the NCAA Tournament.
In one of the less surprising results of the first round, Clark, the 6-foot superstar point guard, led No. 2 seed Iowa to a lopsided 95-43 victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Friday. In true fashion, Clark was electrifying and confident as she recorded another masterful performance. He scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting in 29 minutes. And he added 12 assists, seven rebounds and two steals to round out his stats.
As a team, Iowa shot 60 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3, going 8-of-20.
After not touching the ball for two minutes in the third quarter, Clark hit a long 3 to give Iowa a 25-point lead. He did not celebrate; after all, hitting tough shots is the norm for her. Instead, she seemed very irritated that these were her first points of the quarter. Of course, he had 19 points at halftime.
Clark is one of two favorites for national player of the year, the other being South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston. While the Iowa junior would surely love to win this award, this March Madness is more about revenge.
Last year, the Hawkeyes were also the No. 2 seed and dominated their first-round matchup with a powerful 98-67 win over Illinois State. In the second round, however, they faced tournament Cinderella Creighton and fell 64-62 at home. Clark, then just a sophomore, had a triple-double in the loss.
[Everything to know about the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament]
Iowa is fresh off another Big Ten championship and looks poised to make a deep run. The program hasn’t been to the Final Four since 1993, but this team seems to have as good a chance as any to get there. There will certainly be some obstacles — the Hawkeyes are in arguably the toughest region in the women’s tournament. If they beat No. 10 Georgia in the second round on Sunday, the Hawkeyes could face No. 3 Duke in the Sweet 16 and either No. 4 Texas or No. 1 Stanford in the Elite Eight.
Reach the Final Four? The Hawkeyes would then most likely meet South Carolina, a team that could be destined to repeat as national champions. This matchup would pit the top two players in the country, Clark and Boston, in an epic semifinal.
On Friday, Clark did it all: steal the ball, shoot it and dish it out to his teammates, who always seems to find himself in the right place to make a play.
There’s a long way to go before a potential Iowa-South Carolina Final Four matchup dominates the storylines. But after one game, Clark and the Hawkeyes look fired up and ready to go that far.
What else are we seeing?
— No. 1 seed South Carolina knocked off 16-seed Norfolk State, 72-40. Zia Cooke scored 11 points and Boston had seven points, nine rebounds and two blocks as the Gamecocks extended their winning streak to 39 games, dating back to last year’s SEC Tournament. Coach Dawn Staley called out her team after the game, however, disappointed with their offensive performance in which they shot 38.9 percent from the floor. There was nothing wrong with South Carolina’s defensive effort, however, as Norfolk State went 16-for-61 from the field and had 17 turnovers.
— No. 2 seed Maryland crushed No. 15 seed Holy Cross, 93-61. Brinae Alexander scored a team-high 18 points, while Abby Meyers added 16 points and Diamond Miller had 13 points and eight rebounds. The Terrapins were dominant early and the Crusaders succumbed to the pressure. Maryland scored 37 points off 24 Holy Cross turnovers, 11 of which came in the first quarter. The Terps also had the advantage in points in the paint (44-24), assists (21-12) and steals (13-8).
— No. 3 seed Notre Dame beat No. 14 seed Southern Utah, 82-56. Maddy Westbeld stepped up and scored 20 points, while Sonia Citron added 14 and a season-high six assists. The Fighting Irish had no trouble in this first-round matchup, but are dealing with the loss of All-American point guard Olivia Miles, who will miss the NCAA Tournament with a knee injury. This will be an important storyline to follow during the tournament as Notre Dame’s offense ran through Miles. How will they adjust without their star sophomore? Especially with tougher competition looming in a possible later Sweet 16 matchup against Maryland.
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in the spring of 2022 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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