Women's NCAA Tournament recap: Caitlin Clark lifts Iowa to Final Four after LSU advances

The madness marches on Sunday with the start of the women's college basketball Elite Eight.

To start off the competition, the No. 3 LSU Tigers beat the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes with a record day from Angel Reese. This is the Tigers' first trip to the Final Four since 2008.

Iowa star Caitlin Clark followed with her own record day to send the Hawkeyes to their second Final Four in school history. No. 2 seed Iowa toppled No. 5 seed Louisville, 97-83, in the nightcap behind Clark's 11th career triple-double.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22)  dribbles the ball against Louisville during the second quarter of their Elite Eight game.
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) dribbles the ball against Louisville during the second quarter of their Elite Eight game.

Here's all the action from Sunday's Elite Eight matchups:

Iowa downs Louisville to reach first Final Four since 1993

Caitlin Clark put on show and made sure Iowa would celebrate a huge anniversary.

Clark was electric, recording 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to send No. 2 seed Iowa to a 97-83 win over No. 5 Louisville and into its first Final Four in 30 years. The Hawkeyes made their only other Final Four appearance in 1993 under Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer.

Clark, a candidate for national player of the year, recorded the 11th triple-double of her career with a rebound with less than a minute remaining in the game and became the first player in NCAA Tournament history to record a 40-point triple-double. The 6-0 junior from West Des Moines, Iowa, had already tallied her 17th double-double of the season and 43rd career before the end of the third quarter.

Louisville battled back from a 22-point deficit in the final five minutes to close the gap to 10 points when the Hawkeyes shooting went cold, but it was not enough to send the Cardinals to their fifth Final Four.

Hailey Van Lith powered Louisville with 27 points, and Olivia Cochran recorded a double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds.

LSU coach Kim Mulkey has no doubt Gamecocks will be in Final Four

Kim Mulkey is already calling South Carolina in the Final Four.

The defending national champions don’t play their Elite Eight game against second-seeded Maryland until Monday night, but Mulkey doesn’t need to wait around for that. The top-seeded Gamecocks will be in Dallas next weekend, LSU’s coach said Sunday night.

“South Carolina is going. I’m just telling you that, flat out,” she said after LSU clinched its own spot in the Final Four with a 54-42 win over Miami. “That’s nothing against who they play. I just know how good they are.”

South Carolina thumped LSU by 24 points, 88-64, in their one meeting in the regular season. If Mulkey’s team sees the Gamecocks again, a national title would be on the line.

“I’d sure love to be in that championship with them,” Mulkey said.

— Nancy Armour

Iowa pulls away from Louisville in third quarter

Iowa ended the third quarter on a 11-2 run and outscored Louisville 30-16 in the period to take a 78-59 lead into the final quarter. The Cardinals had cut the lead to one point early in the quarter before Caitlin Clark and her Iowa teammates caught fire, especially from three-point range. Clark scored 11 points in the quarter and added six assists, giving her 33 points and 10 assists through three periods. It was her fourth career NCAA Tournament game with at least 20 points and 10 assists.

Louisville shot only 5-for-18 in the third quarter.

HALF: Iowa 48, Louisville 43

The stars have put on a show for both No. 2 seed Iowa and No. 5 seed Louisville in the first half of their Elite Eight game.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, a candidate for national player of the year, nearly had a first-half double-double, tallying 22 points and eight assists, while shooting 7-for-11 from the field and 5-for-9 from three-point range. Forward McKenna Warnock was also hot, scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.

But Louisville also got stellar play from its star — Hailey Van Lith. The junior guard scored 17 first-half points and shot 60% from the field to pace the Cardinals, who cut a 12-point Iowa lead to five before the break.

Iowa leads Louisville after first quarter

Louisville jumped out to an early 8-0 lead in Sunday's second Elite Eight game before Iowa stormed back to take a 25-21 lead after the first 10 minutes.

Caitlin Clark, one of the most dynamic players in women's basketball, poured in 15 points and four assists, and McKenna Warnock added seven points to fuel the Hawkeyes' surge. Chrislyn Carr led Louisville with nine first-quarter points, and Hailey Van Lith chipped in six.

Iowa star Caitlin Clark makes more history

Caitlin Clark has set yet another record.

Clark became the first player in Division I history to tally 900+ points and 300+ assists in a single season early in the first quarter of the Hawkeyes' Elite Eight matchup against Louisville.

The junior guard averages 26.9 points per game, the second-most in Division I history, and has recorded 10 career triple-doubles, which is also second-most in DI history.

LSU Tigers earn eighth Final Four berth with win

LSU's Sa'Myah Smith, left, and Miami's Lazaria Spearman battle for the ball during the third quarter in their Elite Eight game on Sunday.
LSU's Sa'Myah Smith, left, and Miami's Lazaria Spearman battle for the ball during the third quarter in their Elite Eight game on Sunday.

The No. 3 LSU Tigers are still dancing as they defeated the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes, 54-42, on Sunday to earn their eighth trip to the Final Four and first since 2008.

Senior guard Alexis Morris led the Tigers with 21 points. Sophomore forward Angel Reese had 13 points and 18 rebounds for her 32nd double-double of the season, an SEC record.

Sophomore guard Jasmyne Roberts had 22 points for Miami. No other Hurricane player scored in double figures, and the team went 0-for-15 from behind the arc. They were out-rebounded by the Tigers 49-36 and committed 18 turnovers compared to LSU's 12.

LSU led by as m16 midway through the fourth quarter.

Miami's Lashae Dwyer helped off court after suffering injury

Miami's Lashae Dwyer was hurt with 4:03 remaining when she had contact with Angel Reese in the fourth quarter. She jumped up and fell backwards with her leg folding beneath her. She laid on the court with her eyes closed for several minutes while athletic trainers tended to her. She eventually got up and hobbled off the court with the help of Miami's staff.

Miami was on an 8-0 run prior to her injury. She had four of Miami's eight points in the period.

Angel Reese breaks SEC double-double record in third quarter

LSU is leading Miami 38-27 after the third quarter. Angel Reese came alive after not having a field goal in the first half and now has 11 points and 13 rebounds, 10 of which came on defense. This is the sophomore forward's 32nd double-double of the season, which sets an SEC record.

The Hurricanes had a three-minute scoring drought from when Destiny Harden scored a free throw to when Lola Pendande made a layup.

LSU has led by as many as 13.

Kim Mulkey tones down look for Elite Eight, gets competition from LSU mascot

After her feathery pink ensemble for the Sweet 16, LSU head coach Kim Mulkey went with a more subdued look for the Elite Eight. She wore a grey and pink checkerboard jacket, but the look still stood out because it had plenty of sparkles.

The Tigers mascot gave Mulkey a run for her money, wearing a sparkly butterfly jacket. Mike the Tiger debuted the look, which is modeled after one of the head coach's own, in February of 2022. He broke it out again as LSU fights to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2008.

HALF: LSU 26, Miami 20

The No. 3 LSU Tigers lead the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes 26-20 at the half.

Tigers star Angel Reese has seven points, all from free throws, and eight rebounds.

"I'm gonna let the game come to me. I'm missing a lot of shots, but my teammates and coaches are putting a lot of confidence in me, so I'm going to keep shooting," she said on the ESPN broadcast at the break.

Senior guard Alexis Morris leads LSU with 10 points while Miami is led by sophomore guard Jasmyne Roberts' 16 points.

Neither team has made a three-point shot yet.

LSU leads Miami 10-8 after first quarter

As the Miami men completed an epic 88-81 comeback win over Texas to reach the Final Four, the Miami women were locked in a tight early battle with LSU with the third-seeded Tigers leading the ninth-seeded Hurricanes 10-8. LSU ended the quarter on a 6-0 run. Guard Alexis Morris had six points to lead the Tigers, while LSU star Angel Reese was held without a field goal — though she did sink three free throws. The Hurricanes were paced by by guard Jasmyne Roberts, who also scored six.

Miami fans will need split screens for a few minutes

No. 9 seed Miami, seeking the program's first-ever Final Four, tipped of against No. 3 LSU as the men's program was locked in a tie in the final minutes of its own Elite Eight game. The Miami men's team, seeded fifth, was facing off against No. 2 seed Texas with the last Final Four berth at stake. Connecticut, Florida Atlantic and San Diego State have already won Elite Eight games in the men's tournament. LSU vs. Miami is the first of four women's Elite Eight games — with Iowa vs. Louisville to follow on Sunday night.

UConn's dynasty is dead – and that's actually good news

For the first time in 15 postseasons, the women’s Final Four (and Elite Eight) will not include the UConn Huskies, the most dominant program in women’s basketball this century.

"The problem with streaks is the longer they go, you're closer to it ending than you are to the beginning of it,” said Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said.

So the dynasty is dead. And if you’re a fan of women’s basketball, you shouldn’t be rooting for another to take hold (unless you’re a South Carolina fan).

You can’t deny it: When March really is mad, everyone wins.

— Lindsay Schnell

Caitlin Clark playing with chip on her shoulder

It’s all well and good to say last year’s results mean nothing and Caitlin Clark has nothing to prove.

But they do. And she does. 

As dynamic and exciting as the Player of the Year front-runner is, Iowa has yet to make the Final Four, since Clark got to campus. Last year the Hawkeyes didn’t even get out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, falling in the second round.

But with Stanford, seeded ahead of the No. 2 Hawkeyes in the Seattle 4 region, out of the tournament along with Duke and Texas, this is Clark and Iowa’s chance to make a statement.

Clark is as explosive a player as you’ll find in college basketball, racking up points as if she’s playing Pop-a-Shot. She’s averaging 26.8 points per game, third best in the country. She’s had eight 30-point games and two games when she’s gone over 40.

But the best players are not judged on individual accomplishments. Not primarily, at least. What they do to impact their teams matters more, especially at this time of year, and Clark is still looking for that signature moment.

— Nancy Armour

Famous fan Lil Wayne has reason to root for Miami and LSU

The game hasn’t even begun and already Miami and LSU are battling.

And Lil Wayne is in the middle of it.

Miami’s Haley Cavinder and LSU’s Angel Reese each asked the Grammy-winning rapper to come to Sunday’s Elite Eight game, with both teams claiming his allegiance.

Hanna Cavinder tweeted a photo of her and sister Haley FaceTiming with Lil Wayne after the Hurricanes upset Villanova, while the rapper gave Reese a shoutout on Twitter later Friday night.

"I'm on him because he's from (New Orleans) and he called them before he called us," Reese said Saturday. "So luckily he did tweet it out last night. Hopefully he comes to the game."

Haley Cavinder echoed that.

"Hopefully he comes to the game if he likes Angel Reese and our team. Lil Wayne, if you see this ...," she said.

— Nancy Armour

Vanessa Bryant gifts LSU Tigers with Kobe 6 Grinch sneakers

Ahead of their Elite Eight matchup against the Miami Hurricanes, the LSU Tigers received a special gift from Vanessa Bryant. On Saturday the widow of Kobe Bryant surprised the team with Nike Kobe 6 Grinch sneakers.

LSU shared the exciting moment on Instagram with a video of when the players saw the black shoeboxes with the late NBA superstar's logo and then opened them up to reveal the neon green sneakers. The players' faces lit up and they shrieked with the thrill of the special gift.

"Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop," Emily Ward said while shaking a sneaker in front of the camera.

"That's heat right there," Angel Reese said, nodding her head in approval.

— Victoria Hernandez

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Women's March Madness Elite 8 recap: Iowa, LSU reach Final Four