Home Australia ‘It really hurts’: Clark’s heroics not enough as South Carolina claims NCAA title

‘It really hurts’: Clark’s heroics not enough as South Carolina claims NCAA title

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A women's basketball team is showered with confetti on a podium after winning a championship.

Caitlin Clark hasn’t been able to finish her stellar college career with a title after her Iowa team was defeated by South Carolina in the NCAA championship game.

Kamilla Cardoso shined in the deciding game, tallying 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds as the South Carolina Gamecocks completed their perfect season with an 87-75 victory.

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

“When young people get a foothold and have a belief and a confidence, and their parents have the same confidence, this is what can happen,” Staley said.

“They made history. They recorded their names in the history books.”

Clark did everything he could to lead the Hawkeyes to their first championship. He scored 30 points, including a championship-high 18 in the first quarter.

She rewrote the record book at Iowa (34-5), finishing as the leading career scorer in NCAA Division I history with 3,951 points.

He hopes his legacy will not be defined by coming up short in two NCAA championship games, but rather by the millions of new fans he has helped attract to the game and the countless girls and boys he has inspired.

“I think the biggest thing is that it’s very hard to win these things,” Clark said.

“I think I know better than most people now. Being this close twice really hurts.”

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley celebrates after winning the Final Four college basketball championship against Iowa.(AP: Morry Gash)

When the final buzzer sounded, a stoic Clark walked off the court, through the confetti and into the tunnel leading to the locker room.

“I personally want to thank Caitlin Clark for elevating our sport. She carried a great burden for our sport,” Staley said.

“She’s also going to lift that league (WNBA).

“Caitlin Clark, if you’re out there, you’re one of the GOATS of our game. We appreciate you.”

South Carolina has won three titles in the last eight years, including two of the last three, to claim to be the last dynasty in women’s basketball.

Staley became the fifth coach to win at least 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 of scares throughout the season, but always found a way to win.

With most of the team returning next year, Staley’s team is in a good position to keep this streak going.

“This team we’re going to be good,” Raven Johnson said.

“Coach Staley, we have the best coach in the country, in the nation, in the entire world.”

“There’s no telling what he’s going to add to the pieces that are already here. I’m just saying stay tuned.”

Tessa Johnson led South Carolina with 19 points. Cardoso, the Final Four’s most outstanding player, also blocked three shots.

“Kamilla Cardoso wasn’t going to let us lose a game in the NCAA Tournament,” Staley said.

“She played through an injury, she played like a top pick in the WNBA draft, and her teammates did something no teammate has done for someone who went to the WNBA in our program: They sent her away as a champion. national. So this is history for us.”

Led by Cardoso and Ashlyn Watkins, South Carolina enjoyed a 51-29 rebounding advantage. He also finished with 30 second-chance points.

The Gamecocks also showed off their impressive depth.

Tessa Johnson helped the team achieve a 37-0 point differential among reserves.

South Carolina trailed 46-44 late in the second quarter before going on an 11-0 run that spanned halftime to open a 55-46 lead early in the third quarter. Clark finally finished the run with a layup.

The Hawkeyes closed to within 59-55 and had a chance to get even closer, but Hannah Stuelke missed an open layup on a brilliant pass from Clark.

South Carolina responded with the next eight points, including two 3-pointers. The Gamecocks, who were 4 of 20 from behind the three-point line during last season’s Final Four loss to Iowa, were 8 of 19 from deep against the Hawkeyes in the win.

Iowa trailed 80-75 after a three-point play by Sydney Affolter with 4:12 left. But the Hawkeyes were shut out the rest of the way.

Clark retired with 20 seconds left as Iowa coach Lisa Bluder replaced fellow senior Molly Davis, who hadn’t played since getting hurt in the regular-season finale against Ohio State.

Unlike the semifinals, when Clark struggled against UConn’s defense, he got going early against South Carolina.

Clark scored 13 straight points, including another three-pointer, for Iowa as the Hawkeyes led by 11 early.

South Carolina cut the score to 22-20 with 1:30 left in the period before Clark scored the final five points, including a 3-pointer over Cardoso.

Clark’s 18 points in the first quarter set a championship game record, surpassing the 16 LSU’s Jasmine Carson had last year against the Hawkeyes.

The Gamecocks trailed 46-44 in the final minute when Te-Hina PaoPao hit a 3-pointer and Raven Johnson stole the ball from Clark near midcourt for a layup. South Carolina led 49-46 at the half.

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