Caitlin Clark wills Iowa into Sweet 16 as Hawkeyes keep away from upset

Well, that was a detailed name.

Caitlin Clark scored 22 factors and added 12 assists and three steals as No. 2 seed Iowa narrowly beat No. 10 Georgia, 74-66, on their dwelling court docket Sunday afternoon.

It was practically deja vu for the Hawkeyes, who have been upset by a distinct No. 10 seed at this level within the NCAA Tournament final 12 months. That sport needed to be on the workforce’s thoughts because the Bulldogs stored issues tight. 

In 2022, this similar Iowa workforce (all 5 starters are the identical three years operating) misplaced at dwelling to No. 10 Creighton, the tourney’s Cinderella who ended up advancing to the Elite Eight. Clark had a double-double in that sport, but it surely wasn’t sufficient.

This time, she had extra assist. While Clark accounted for greater than half the Hawkeyes’ offense, Monika Czinano had 20 factors and 9 rebounds, Gabbie Marshall scored 15 factors, and McKenna Warnock added 14 factors and eight boards.

Georgia turned the ball over twice in 37 seconds down two with 1:07 remaining. That’s when Clark, a front-runner to win participant of the 12 months, hit a jumper to present the Hawkeyes a little bit of cushion. She then sank 4 free throws down the stretch after two Bulldog fouls within the remaining three seconds.

Now, the Hawkeyes can take a deep breath as they transfer onto the Sweet 16, the place they may face the winner of Duke-Colorado in Seattle.

South Carolina continues to look unstoppable

For anybody who may need stepped away from their TVs for a few hours to get some recent air on Sunday, your NCAA Tournament replace is that this: South Carolina remains to be dominating and nonetheless very a lot within the hunt to defend its nationwide championship.

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The No. 1 total seeded Gamecocks took down No. 8 seed South Florida 76-45 at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, extending their present successful streak to 40 video games, which dates again to final 12 months’s SEC title sport loss to Kentucky.

Zia Cooke led all scorers with 21 factors, nationwide participant of the 12 months candidate Aliyah Boston had 11 factors and 11 rebounds, and Laeticia Amihere added 10 factors, six rebounds and a block.

While the ultimate rating and stat sheet would point out that this was a typical South Carolina blowout, issues have been really a little bit nervy to begin. The Bulls led after the primary quarter, making it simply the seventh time this season that the Gamecocks trailed after 10 minutes.

Before the sport, head coach Jose Fernandez stated that his workforce wouldn’t be intimidated by the second or the ambiance, taking part in in Columbia in entrance of a rowdy crowd. USF beat Texas and Arkansas earlier this season when these opponents have been nationally ranked, and performed different NCAA tourney groups like NC State, Ohio State and Villanova. They additionally performed UConn shut final season, so this group knew what it was prefer to play in a giant sport heading into it.

“I look at it as they have all the pressure on them,” Fernandez stated earlier than the sport. “It’s March. Anything can happen. We’re going to do what we do and see what happens.” 

The Bulls definitely examined the Gamecocks, attacking the glass, getting factors within the paint, taking pictures 3s and customarily seeming unafraid to go proper on the reigning champs on their dwelling court docket. In the primary and second quarters, South Florida performed bodily and made it troublesome for South Carolina to get something going inside, holding them to 12 factors within the paint after they common 44.5 factors per sport. South Carolina held a slim 33-29 edge on the break.

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Whatever glimmer of hope South Florida had that it would have the ability to grasp round was shortly squashed within the third quarter.  

Legendary coach Dawn Staley confirmed off her depth and used totally different combos to place the sport away. She has her beginning lineup of Boston, Cooke, Victaria Saxton, Brea Beal and Kierra Fletcher, however can tweak issues barely so as to add velocity, dimension and shake issues up as the sport dictates. For instance, Bree Hall got here in off the bench and had seven factors and 6 rebounds, together with a team-high 4 offensive boards. She additionally hit a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter with the sport already out of hand, Amihere had a monster block on the defensive finish, obtained out in transition, known as for the ball and made a layup to present her workforce a 22-point lead. 

South Carolina’s bench, which is ranked first nationally averaging 36.8 PPG, scored 30 factors. As a workforce, that they had 10 blocks, 4 of which got here from Saxton, and outrebounded the Bulls 55-28, together with 24 offensive boards. 

Other notable South Carolina numbers embody 34 factors within the paint, 17 second likelihood factors, and holding the Bulls to 16 factors within the second half.  

As Staley’s workforce marches on to its ninth straight Sweet 16, the query that’s been requested all season stays: Can anyone take down the Gamecocks?

Laken Litman covers school soccer, school basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She beforehand wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the writer of “Strong Like a Woman,” printed in spring 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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