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University of Iowa and the University of South Carolina Advance to NCAA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship Game

Alan Kornspan

Believeland Media

It was an exciting night of basketball at Rocket Mortgage arena here in Cleveland, Ohio.

In the first game of the NCAA Women's National Semifinal, the South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the North Carolina State University Wolfpack, 78-59, to punch their ticket to the Championship Game.  

In the second game of the night, Caitlin Clark and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes claimed their spot in the National Championship Game with a 71-69 victory over the University of Connecticut Huskies.

In South Carolina's victory over North Carolina State, the contest started closely as the teams were tied 16-16 after one quarter of play.

The game remained extremely close throughout the second quarter as the Gamecocks held a one point advantage at 32-31 heading into halftime.

After an extremely close first half, the game changed drastically in the third quarter with the Gamecocks outscoring the Wolfpack, 29-6.

Leading 61-37 entering the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks went on to claim a 78-59 victory.

In the post-game press conference, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said that the Wolfpack was a challenging opponent.

“Just want to congratulate NC State for making it to the Final Four, making it hard for us,” said Staley.
“It was not an easy win, although the score may say differently. But we had to play for 40 minutes in order for us to win the basketball game. So really proud of them and their effort to get to the Final Four."
"And then I'm just proud of our team, to be able to play on this big stage and not play our best basketball in the first half and come back out and make some small adjustments and meet the moment to get us to Sunday.”

When asked about the third quarter, Staley said that she really liked the way her team intensified their defensive pressure against the Wolfpack.

“I like the fact that we turned up the heat,” said Staley.
“I mean, we put a lot more pressure on them to go deeper in their offense. We put a lot more pressure on the basketball, especially their point guards, the people that were initiating their offense.”
"So if you get them to play a little bit outside of their comfort zone, you're disrupting and dictating. I thought we did a lot more of that in the third quarter that created some easy buckets for us.”

In addition to their excellent defense, leading the Gamecocks offensively for the game were Karmilia Cardoso (22 points and 11 rebounds), Raven Johnson (13 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds), and Te-Hina Pao-Pao (10 points, 6 assists).

In the second game of the night,  the Huskies got out to a 19-14 first quarter advantage. The Huskies then slightly extended their lead in the second quarter taking a 32-26 lead into halftime.

Unlike the first national semifinal game, the contest between the Hawkeyes and the Huskies tightened after halftime. 

In the third quarter, the Hawkeyes overcame their six point deficit to head into the fourth quarter tied at 51-51.

In the fourth quarter, Iowa extended their lead to nine points at 66-57 as Gabbie Mitchell connected on a jump shot with 5:42 left in the game.

The Huskies were resilient over the next five minutes and got to within one point of the Hawkeyes at 70-69 when Nika Muhl connected on a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left in the game.

The Huskies had a chance to win the game at the end, however with four seconds left, a foul was called on Aliyah Edwards for setting an illegal screen. 

When asked about the call, Edwards said that the referee did not provide an explanation for the call since there was not much time.

“No, I wasn't given an explanation,” said Edwards.
“There was no real time to get an explanation for it. My point of view, it was pretty clean.”

After the foul, Iowa's Caitlin Clark added a free throw to make the final score 71-69.

Afterward, at the post-game press conference, Iowa Head Coach Lisa Bluder said she was happy with the way the Hawkeyes performed in the second half of the game. In particular, she noted the excellent play of Hannah Stuelke. 

“Couldn't be happier with our performance tonight in the second half," Bluder said.
"First half was a little rough for us, but you know, we really kept believing, and I'm just so proud of the character of these young women to maintain their composure through some pretty tough times in the first half. And we got it to within six at halftime and we felt good about that."
"I thought Hannah Stuelke was amazing tonight. But we're really thrilled to be playing in the championship game for the second year in a row.”

As Coach Bluder mentioned, Stuelke had a great game as she led the Hawkeyes with 23 points and had 3 assists, and a rebound. 

Clark added 21 points, 9 assists, and seven rebounds.

Iowa will play South Carolina in the National Championship Game on Sunday afternoon at 3pm at Rocket Mortgage Arena in Cleveland. The game can be seen on ABC.



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