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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Caitlin Clark continues dominant run as Iowa rolls past Louisville; LSU joins Hawkeyes in Final Four

Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates after defeating the Louisville Cardinals 97-83 in the Elite Eight at Climate Pledge Arena on Sunday in Seattle, Washington.  (Getty Images)
By Percy Allen Seattle Times

The NCAA Tournament rarely delivers a matchup as thrilling and enticing as it did in the Elite Eight.

On one end of the court there was Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, a once-in-a-generation player and triple-threat queen who is on pace to rewrite the NCAA’s record books.

And at the other end there was Hailey Van Lith, the Cashmere product who has become a Louisville sensation and one of the greatest players in today’s game.

Both are All-Americans and can’t-miss WNBA stars destined to play on the Climate Pledge Arena floor and renew Sunday night’s masterpiece for many more years.

In their first collegiate matchup, Round 1 goes to Clark who arguably has never been better while authoring a 41-point triple double to carry Iowa to a 97-83 victory and claim the Seattle 4 Regional title.

The No. 2 seed Hawkeyes (30-6) will face the winner of Greenville 2 Regional final between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 Maryland on Friday in the Final Four.

Van Lith got things started with six points and an assist to lift Louisville to an 8-0 lead, which prompted an Iowa timeout with 7:45 remaining in the first quarter.

Clark, who missed her first two shots, answered with seven straight points and the show was on.

The next 60 minutes was a showcase of Clark’s basketball brilliance. She scored in myriad ways – step-back 3-pointers, pullup threes on a fast break, dribble drive floaters at a blistering pace that left Van Lith and Louisville lagging far behind.

Iowa led 25-21 after the first quarter with Clark accounting for 21 points while scoring 15 and doling out four assists.

And that’s not to suggest the Cardinals weren’t equally exceptional. In the first half, Louisville shot 53.3% from the field, including 66.7% (6 of 9) on 3-pointers.

Normally, that’s enough to build a sizable lead but against Iowa, which shot 54.8% from the floor and canned 9 of 21 3-pointers, Louisville trailed 48-43 at halftime.

Iowa went up 65-52 on Kate Martin’s rainbow 3-pointer with 4:21 left in the third quarter and outscored Louisville 30-16 in the period to take a 78-59 lead into the fourth.

Louisville (26-12) never mounted a serious challenge the rest of the way and failed to make a second straight trip to the Final Four.

Van Lith finished with 27 points – two shy of her season high – on 8-for-16 shooting while Olivia Cochran added 20 points and 12 rebounds and Chrislyn Carr chipped in 11 points.

However, scoring points wasn’t Louisville’s problem. Cardinals coach Jeff Walz needed to design a defense to slow down the nation’s highest scoring offense.

At times Louisville tried covering Clark, a rail-thin 6-foot guard, with bigger defenders and assigned 6-2 forward Nyla Harris, 6-2 guard Morgan Jones and 6-0 guard Merissah Russell with the seemingly impossible task of slowing her down.

But nothing worked.

Clark drained 11 of 19 field goals, including 8 of 14 3-pointers and 11 of 13 on free throws. She whipped pinpoint passes through defenders for 12 assists. And in the final minutes collected her 10th rebound for her 11th career triple double.

Clark thrilled the crowd of 11,700 and playfully interacted with fans who shouted “Let’s go Hawks!” and “MVP!”

Sure enough, Clark was voted the Seattle Region 4 Most Outstanding Player after scoring 31 points against Colorado in the regional semifinal.

McKenna Warnock finished with 17 points and five rebounds and Gabbie Marshall tallied 14 points for Iowa, which advances to the Final Four for the first time since 1993.

Tigers weather Hurricanes

Miami held LSU – the nation’s fourth-best offense – to its season-low scoring total, and Hurricanes’ sophomore Jasmyne Roberts played exceptionally well, scoring 22 points.

But it wasn’t enough.

The Miami women’s basketball team will not be joining the UM men’s team in Texas. The magic for the ninth-seeded Hurricanes ended Sunday night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in upstate South Carolina as they lost 54-42 to No. 3 LSU.

Miami, playing in its first Elite Eight, was also seeking its first trip to the Final Four in program history. Instead, the Tigers are advancing to Dallas out of the Greenville 2 Region. LSU will face the winner of Monday’s Seattle 4 regional clash between No. 1 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Ohio State.

The Hurricanes would have been the lowest seed to advance to a Final Four since Arkansas, also a No. 9 seed, in 1998. But it just wasn’t meant to be for Miami. The Hurricanes shot a season-worst 0 of 15 from three-point range, turned the ball over 18 times and shot 31.6% from the floor.

It’s the first time Miami failed to make a three-pointer in a game since Jan. 9, 2012, when it shot 0 for 10 from deep in a win at Georgia Tech.

While Roberts was great – she also had seven rebounds and three assists – no other UM player scored in double digits. In her final game in a Miami uniform, fifth-year senior Destiny Harden finished with three points while shooting 0 of 9 from the floor to go along with seven rebounds, two assists and three steals.

LSU was led by its All-American, junior forward Angel Reese, who had a season-low 13 points to pair with 18 rebounds. But Reese had to work hard to accumulate those stats. She shot 3 of 15 from the floor in 39 minutes and also had four turnovers. Alexis Morris added 21 points for the Tigers, who are headed back to the national semifinals for the first time since 2008.