Clark, Reese, Watkins, Bueckers deliver on huge night for women’s college hoops

Published 8:39 am Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament has been must-see television and the quarterfinal games in the Elite Eight on Monday lived up to that billing.

In a rematch of the title game from last year, which was the most watched NCAA women’s basketball game of all time, the Iowa Hawkeyes got 41 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds from star guard Caitlin Clark to push past LSU 94-87.

The defending national champions from LSU got 17 points and 20 rebounds from star forward Angel Reese, but Reese was hobbled in the second half by a turned ankle that appeared to slow her down.

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Iowa (33-4) moves on to face the University of Connecticut on Friday in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Final Four matchup between the Hawkeyes and the Huskies is scheduled to tip off at 8:30 p.m.

Long known as one of the greatest college basketball dynasties, the UConn women and coach Geno Auriemma last won a national title in 2016, which was part of a four-year run from 2013-2016 where the Huskies reigned as champs.

Not many people, Auriemma included, thought that UConn would be making another Final Four appearance after injuries limited the rotation to eight healthy players for the Huskies late in the season.

UConn (33-4) made its run through the tournament with wins over Jackson State, Syracuse, Duke and Southern California.

In that win on Monday over USC, UConn got 28 points from former national player of the year Paige Bueckers in a back and forth ballgame.

What kept USC in contention was the playoff all-world freshman JuJu Watkins, who led the Trojans with 29 points.

The opening semifinal on Friday will feature the machine that is the no. 1 ranked and unbeaten South Carolina Gamecocks (36-0) taking on an underdog program from North Carolina State (31-6).

NC State went through some heavyweights to reach South Carolina though, beating Tennessee (79-72) in the second round, Stanford (77-67) in the Sweet Sixteen and Texas (76-66) in the Elite Eight.

South Carolina was tested the most in the Sweet 16 by Indiana in a game eventually won 79-75 by coach Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks.

South Carolina is an 11.5 point favorite over NC State while Iowa is favored by 2.5 points against UConn.