College Basketball

Caitlin Clark leads Iowa to Final Four with epic March Madness win over Angel Reese, LSU

ALBANY — Caitlin Clark was in the middle of pregame warm-ups, when Angel Reese stepped on the court and stood at the sideline, placing the sport’s two biggest stars in each other’s sights.

As Clark readied to shoot, Reese placed her signature sparkling crown on the LSU bench.

Then, the queen of college basketball made the champs bow before her.

Caitlin Clark and Iowa advanced to the Final Four with their win against LSU. Getty Images
Caitlin Clark celebrates after Iowa defeated LSU in the Elite Eight on Monday. AP

In the highly anticipated rematch of last year’s record-breaking national title game, Clark left MVP Arena with a mesmerizing performance befitting her legend, scoring 41 points with 12 assists, seven rebounds and two steals to knock off LSU, 94-87, avenge the most devastating loss of her career and bring Iowa back to the Final Four.

“Being so close last year, I think that’s what just drives you,” Clark said. “It’s amazing to be back in the Final Four. It’s so hard to get there, especially with how loaded this region was. We told ourselves we’re the 1-seed for a reason. We’ve earned this. We deserve to be in these moments. We’re prepared for these moments.

“The reason we’ve been able to play such good basketball is we don’t want this to end. … We want to win two more, and I think we have the power to do that.”

Clark tied the single-game NCAA Tournament record by hitting nine (of 20) 3-pointers, while also becoming the all-time career and tournament leader in 3-pointers.

Caitlin Clark and Iowa overcame a five-point deficit after the first quarter to defeat LSU on Monday. USA TODAY Sports

Clark — who had a 41-point triple-double in last year’s Elite Eight — scored or assisted on 71 percent of Iowa’s points.

The No. 1 Hawkeyes (33-4) will face the winner of Monday night’s other regional final between No. 1 USC and No. 3 UConn on Friday in Cleveland.

“She’s just a generational player, and she just makes everybody around her better,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “That’s what the great ones do.”

Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith address reporters following LSU’s loss in the Elite Eight. Getty Images
Caitlin Clark celebrates with her Iowa teammates after their Elite Eight win. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Threatened with her final game in black and gold, Clark didn’t let the game come to her.

She grabbed it by the throat. She opened the game with a 3.

Angel Reese and LSU fell short of returning to another Final Four. Getty Images

She added another, following a crossover that left LSU’s Last-Tear Poa stumbling.

She threw one beautiful backdoor pass after another, pushing the pace and igniting the pro-Hawkeyes crowd.

Angel Reese (17 points, 20 rebounds) overwhelmed the undersized Iowa frontline, but played through a sprained ankle she aggravated in the second quarter.

Angel Reese scores two of her points for LSU in their Elite Eight loss to Iowa. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The stars who refused to feed into the hype delivered on it.

It was Hagler and Hearns, making the opening minutes feel like the climax.

The teams treated every shot, every whistle, every possession, like it swung the game.

Because it had the potential to. Because it was the rare night in the ring with a fighter who hit just as hard.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder cuts down the net after the Hawkeyes won in their Elite Eight game. Getty Images

The No. 3 Tigers (31-6) closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run and stretched the lead to 34-26, but the best perimeter-shooting team in the nation responded, with Kate Martin and Sydney Affolter combining for 37 points.

With the teams tied at 45 at halftime, Clark opened the second half with a 3.

She went behind the back before she hit her next. Her fourth 3-pointer of the third quarter came over Reese, as Iowa extended its lead to 13.

In the fourth quarter, the greatest scorer in Division I history delivered another pair of 3s, which prompted Clark to scream to the crowd and pound her chest.

“Sometimes you get a little hyped for yourself and you do things that you don’t even realize you’re doing,” Clark said.

Soon afterwards, Reese fouled out and walked to the sideline, where she watched the final minutes.

The champs were dead.

Clark dribbled out the final seconds, with a smile that stretched to Iowa City, and threw the ball to her brother in the crowd to keep safe, to remember a night she could never forget.

Kate Martin scored 21 points for Iowa in their win against LSU. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

In the handshake line, Mulkey embraced Clark.

“I said, ‘I sure am glad you’re leaving,’ ” Mulkey said. “I said, ‘Girl, you something else. Never seen anything like it.’ ”

Then, Clark came face-to-face with Reese, who infamously waved her hand at the Iowa star as LSU celebrated last year’s title win.

They smiled.

And they hugged.

“She just told me, ‘Continue to be a great player,’ ” Reese said. “And I told her, ‘Continue to be a great player, as well, and keep elevating the game and go win it.’ ”

Long live the queen.