June 20th, 2024

South Carolina finishes off perfect season with NCAA championship, beating Clark and Iowa 87-75

By Doug Feinberg, The Associated Press on April 7, 2024.

CLEVELAND (AP) – Dawn Staley and South Carolina completed their perfect season, ending Caitlin Clark’s historic college career with an 87-75 win over Iowa in the NCAA championship game Sunday.

With Staley directing a relentless attack from the sideline, the Gamecocks (38-0) became the 10th Division I team to go through a season without a loss. And they accomplished the feat after they lost all five starters from last season’s team that lost to Clark’s squad in the national semifinals.

Clark did all she could to lead the Hawkeyes to their first championship. She scored 30 points, including a championship-record 18 in the first quarter. She will go down as one of the greatest players in NCAA history. She rewrote the record book at Iowa (34-5), finishing as the c areer leading scorer in NCAA Division I history with 3,951 career points.

She hopes her legacy isn’t defined by falling short in two NCAA championship games, but more by the millions of new fans she helped bring into the game and the countless young girls and boys that she inspired.

South Carolina has won three titles in the last eight years, including two of the past three, to lay claim to being the latest dynasty in women’s basketball. Staley became the fifth coach to win three national championships, joining Geno Auriemma, Pat Summitt, Kim Mulkey and Tara VanDerveer.

The Gamecocks, who have won 109 of their last 112 games, became the first team since UConn in 2016 to go undefeated. South Carolina had a couple scares throughout the season, but always found a way to win.

With most of the team returning next year except for star center Kamilla Cardoso, Staley’s team is in a good position to keep this run going.

Tessa Johnson led South Carolina with 19 points. Cardoso had 15 points and 17 rebounds.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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