DALLAS (AP) — Kim Mulkey’s LSU Tigers used a record offensive performance to beat Caitlin Clark and Iowa 102-85 in Sunday’s national championship game and win the first basketball title in school history.
The win made Mulkey the first women’s coach to win national championships at two different schools. She won three at Baylor before joining LSU two years ago. Feisty and flamboyantly dressed, Mulkey, who wore a glittery gold tiger stripe outfit, now has the third-most titles of all time behind Geno Auriemma’s 11 and Pat Summitt’s 8. Mulkey has never lost in a championship game.
The loss ended one of the greatest individual performances in NCAA tournament history from Clark, the AP International of the Year. The junior guard finished with 30 points. She scored 40 points in the semifinals to knock out undefeated South Carolina in one game after having the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history in the Elite Eight.
The colorful guard, who grew up in Iowa, set the NCAA record for points in a tournament, surpassing the 177 scored by Sheryl Swoopes in 1993 en route to leading Texas Tech to the title that year. Clark finished her tournament with 191.
The 102 points broke the previous all-time high for a championship game and surpassed the 97 that Texas scored against Southern California in 1986.
Jasmine Carson had 22 points, Alexis Morris added 21, and Angel Reese had 15 points and 10 rebounds for LSU (34-2).
Trailing 21 points early in the third quarter, Iowa began hitting from the outside to start a 15-2 run, hitting four 3-pointers and having a 3-point game to go within 65- 57 to come.
The Hawkeyes (31-7) were 73-64, 1:03 down in the third quarter when Clark was called out for a technical foul. She batted the ball away when it was on the ground after a foul on a teammate. That counted as a personal foul for her, her fourth of the game.
Clark played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls but didn’t get much closer to the Hawkeyes.
After Katari Poole hit a 3-pointer in front of the LSU bench, Mulkey started crying. A few seconds later after another LSU basket, Reese taunted Clark by holding her hand in front of her face in a “You can’t see me” gesture.
As the final seconds ticked by, Mulkey and Reese embraced, prompting a wild celebration from the Tigers.
The game was tight for the first 15 minutes before Carson got hot from the outside. She made all six of her shots in the second quarter, including four 3-pointers. After one of them, she threw her hands in the air and Mulkey mimicked it on the sidelines.
Finally, the Graduate Student Guard fired a shot just before the halftime buzzer to give the Tigers a 59-42 lead at the break. It was the most points ever scored in the first half of a championship game, breaking the record Tennessee has held since 1998.
“I’ve worked for this my whole life,” Carson said at halftime. “It feels great to finally be able to show it on this stage.”
LSU shot 58% from the field in the first 20 minutes, including nine for 12 from behind the arc. The Tigers finished the game shooting 54% from the field, including 11 of 17 3-pointers.
Clark had 16 points and five assists before rescuing her third foul with 3:56 left at halftime, which didn’t sit well with the sold-out crowd of more than 19,000 fans, including First Lady Jill Biden and Billie Jean King. who sat together in a luxury box above the court.
Prior to that game, Carson had remained goalless in five of her seven career postseason games. She had 11 points in this NCAA tournament before Sunday.
It was a high-scoring first quarter, although there were many stoppages for fouls, making it harder to get into an offensive flow. Clark had a great first quarter, scoring 14 points, but Iowa was 27-22 behind.
Carson used a 3-pointer in front of the buzzer.
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