Hawkeyes fall short of championship aspirations in finals loss to South Carolina

Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes are national champions at last. / A storybook season led by the legendary Catlin Clark falls short of glory.
NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Despite all the records and headlines, the Iowa Hawkeyes were unable to put a one in the right-hand column of the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks falling 87-75 in Cleveland. Unfortunately, Caitlin Clark's legendary resume will not include a championship season.

Iowa started the game on a heater, nonetheless. After Kate Martin and Sydney Affolter grabbed the first seven points of the contest, Clark registered the next 13 as the Hawkeyes stormed to a lead that peaked at 11. Clark finished the first quarter with 18 points, the most ever in an opening quarter of a national championship game.

Thanks to a rotation from South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley brought the Gamecocks back with seven points in the first, ending the opening 10 minutes with Iowa on top 27-20.

South Carolina continued their momentum into the second with seven unanswered to tie the contest. Much like their 2023 matchup, the Gamecocks took full advantage of their ability to grab offensive rebounds. The Gamecocks lead the first half with 12 offensive rebounds while the Hawkeyes had just 18 overall.

The back-and-forth action picked up after South Carolina took its first lead 36-34 with 4:36 remaining in the first half.

Interestingly, while Iowa certainly played as fast as usual early, the first half saw the Hawkeyes scoring calmy from the free three line. Iowa was 10-11 from the line in the first half, six of which came from Clark.

Despite 21 first-half points from Clark, 11 from Kate Martin, and solid work underneath from Hannah Stuelke with nine points, three rebounds and two blocks, the Gamecocks took a 49-46 lead into the half.

The Hawkeyes had their biggest struggles with 6-foot-7 senior Kamilla Cardoso's presence in the paint and Te-Hina Paopao' nine points as she hit all three of her shots from deep. Defensively, Raven Johnson gave South Carolina the biggest boost by latching onto Clark, holding her to three points in the first half.

The second half continued South Carolina's momentum as the Gamecocks pulled a 9-0 and 8-0 run at both ends of the third quarter. Johnson's defense held Clark to just four points while Marshall was 1-2 from three and Martin and Stulke cooled.

Trailing 68-59 heading into the fourth, the Hawkeyes faced an insurmountable task correct the deficit / uphill battle in their pursuit of a championship.

As the final 10 minutes got underway, the shots that seemed automatic early were near impossible. South Caolina's lead grew as large as 14.

Soon after, a deep three from Clark and a subsequent three from Marshall sparked momentum for the Hawkeyes on an 8-0 run.

A put-back shot by Cardoso after a block of Addison O'Grady proved to be the nail in the coffin for Iowa.

For the second straight season Caitlin Clark willed the Hawkeyes to the national championship only to fall short of a title. Nevertheless, she leaves college basketball as the sport's most decorated player.

Clark, Marshall, Martin, and Molly Davis move on from Iowa after four incredible seasons of Iowa basketball.

Up Next: