On Sunday night, the LSU Tigers were crowned NCAA Tournament champions for the first time in program history behind head coach Kim Mulkey. Other than the championship game itself, there’s a lot to breakdown of the last week in the 2022-23 women’s basketball season between the intense Final Four rounds and highlighting the best performances in the tournament. Without further ado, let’s get into the final week of Madness in Dallas, TX.
The Final Four
No. 3 seeded LSU downs No. 1 seeded Virginia Tech
With both teams first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament championship on the line, No. 1 seeded Virginia Tech went head to head with No. 3 seeded LSU. The Tigers jumped out to a hot start and led by as many as nine points in the first half. The Hokies then made some adjustments, switching to a zone defense to limit LSU’s offense. At halftime, Virginia Tech was up 34-32 and ran away with a 20-2 run after the break to take a 43-34 lead at the end of the third quarter. However, LSU did not let their battle end here. To start the fourth quarter, the Tigers came roaring back to cut Virginia Tech’s lead to 59-57 with a 7-0 run. They continued the rally, going on a 14-3 run halfway through the final quarter to capture the lead 64-62. Alexis Morris led the offense for the Tigers scoring 27 points with two assists and two rebounds. Outscoring Virginia Tech 28-11 in the fourth quarter, LSU sealed the 79-72 victory to advance to the program’s first NCAA Tournament championship and chase the national title.
No. 2 seeded Iowa upsets No. 1 seeded South Carolina
To snap their historic 42-game winning streak, No. 2 seeded Iowa upset No. 1 South Carolina to advance to the national championship for the first time in program history. Iowa took control early in the first quarter, gaining a nine point lead over the Gamecocks. That lead did not last as South Carolina’s Zia Cooke drove in 18 points in the first half to help keep the Gamecocks in the game. Cooke finished with 24 points with eight rebounds. Iowa held on to the 38-37 lead at halftime. Reigning National Player of the Year, Aliyah Boston got into early foul trouble for South Carolina and remained on the bench for the second quarter. In the third quarter, the Gamecocks offense seemed out of character, but Iowa and Caitlin Clark shined. With about seven minutes left in the third quarter, Iowa led by nine points. However, South Carolina found some rhythm in the fourth quarter and cut the Hawkeye’s lead to four. Every time that the Gamecocks got close to tying the game, Clark responded and kept Iowa ahead. Clark finished with 41 points, six rebounds with eight assists. Monika Czinano also contributed with 18 points, three rebounds and three steals. In the last moments of the game, South Carolina continued to foul Iowa to get the ball in their possession. The Hawkeyes capitalized on their free throw opportunities and got the offensive rebounds when it mattered. Clark had an answer every time, leading Iowa to upset South Carolina 77-73 and advance to the NCAA National championship for the first time in program history.
Best Stat Lines
Elizabeth Kitley (Virginia Tech) vs LSU – 18 points, 12 rebounds, 7 blocks
In the last game of her senior season, Elizabeth Kitley finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks, playing a significant role in keeping the pace for Virginia Tech against LSU. At halftime, the senior center was just two rebounds away from a double-double. The Hokies had a balanced offensive attack with the duo of Kitley and Georgia Amoore who posted 17 points, three rebounds and two assists. The two time ACC Player of the Year had a historic season with the Hokies. Kitley recently announced that she will be returning to Virginia Tech for a fifth year so her domination of women’s basketball is not over yet.
Kamilla Cardoso (South Carolina) vs Iowa – 14 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks
South Carolina is known for their dominant roster that has depth like no other team in the country. Cardoso was the leading performer in the Final Four against Iowa. She stood out on all sides of the court and picked up the Gamecocks when they were slacking. The junior center scored 14 points on 7-for-9 on shooting with 14 rebounds. She was a large part of South Carolina’s offensive rebounding advantage over Iowa (25-6) as she grabbed nine out of the 25 total. Although South Carolina was not able to overcome Iowa and the powerhouse in Clark, she will be returning for the Gamecocks next season for another run to a national title.
The Championship Recap
No. 3 seeded LSU topped No. 2 seeded Iowa
To capture their first ever national title, LSU dominated Iowa 102-85 in the NCAA Tournament. In a highly anticipated matchup between two teams that upset the number one seed in the Final Four rounds, LSU scored the most points ever in a championship game. The Tigers took an early lead from their offensive attacks and remained in control for the majority of the contest. LSU built up a 17-point halftime lead. In the first half, Jasmine Carson was practically perfect from the field, leading LSU with 21 points with four three pointers; she finished with 22 points. Iowa did not stop fighting and Clark took matters into her own hands. She knocked down three 3-pointers and cut the deficit to 11 points. However, Clark and Czinano got into foul trouble having four each by the end of the third quarter. Clark’s foul trouble was a result of a technical foul. Yet, Iowa never backed down but LSU had the advantage with a 75-64 lead. As the clock winded down, LSU pulled away from Iowa and became national champions. Reese was named Most Outstanding Player after having another double-double performance posting 15 points and 10 rebounds. Kim Mulkey became the first coach in women’s basketball to lead two teams to win a national title (she won three with Baylor).
Best Stat Lines
Alexis Morris – 21 points, 9 assists, 2 rebounds
Alexis Morris was a large part of LSU’s offense which led them to a national championship. Morris’s offense was not the only thing powering LSU to the win as she had an answer for defending Caitlin Clark beyond the arc. The senior guard scored 19 of her 21 points after halftime, shooting 63.6%. Morris finished her college career as a national champion making valuable contributions to the team all season long.
LaDazhia Williams – 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals
In the last year of her college year, LaDazhia Williams was a key member of the LSU women’s basketball team and is now a national champion. In the final game, she scored 20 points with five rebounds and three steals. The graduate student forward was a constant performer for the Tigers in their tournament run
Championship: 15 rebounds, 10 rebounds, 5 assists
Final Four: 24 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals
The Most Outstanding Player of the national championship, Angel Reese, was dominant all tournament. The breakout star in college basketball is a double-double machine, breaking the record for having the most double-doubles in a single season with 34. Her skill set is unparalleled to other opponents on the floor and she’s one of, if not LSU’s top players. The sophomore forward became a national champion in her first season at LSU having one of the most inspirational comebacks of women’s basketball this season after transferring from Maryland. Reese’s college basketball career is nowhere near finished after she just finished her sophomore season with a ring on her ringer.
Championship: 30 points, 8 assists, 2 rebounds
Final Four: 41 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists
Caitlin Clark is considered one of, if not the best player in the country. Her case for National Player of the Year was definitely proven after her record breaking performances in the March Madness. The junior guard scored 191 in the entire tournament, the most points ever between the men’s and women’s in a single NCAA Tournament. Clark’s thrilling performances led Iowa all the way to the national championship but they fell short to LSU. Her efforts got the attention of the entire country which drew record breaking numbers of viewership. Clark’s college career is not over as she is not eligible for the WNBA draft yet as a junior. She will return to her home-state school of Iowa in hopes of continuing her dominance and bringing the Hawkeyes the program’s first national title.
Monika Czinano – 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Behind Clark there’s Monika Czinano, a senior forward that was the backbone behind Iowa. Despite getting into foul trouble in the national championship game, Czinano was a force that helped the Hawkeyes stay in game. She was dominant throughout the entire tournament and finished her senior season with a historic run in the NCAA Tournament for Iowa.
Sunday’s national championship game between LSU and Iowa shattered the rating records for a women’s college basketball game, changing the game for the better. ESPN announced that the game broadcasted on ABC averaged 9.9 million viewers making it the most viewed NCAA women’s basketball final in television history. She finished her career at Iowa with 2,382 points.