Caitlin Clark’s strong performance lifts Iowa to Elite 8, sets up rematch with defending champion LSU

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Caitlin Clark, the presumptive top pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft, delivered another impressive performance in Iowa’s Sweet 16 matchup with the fifth-seeded Colorado Buffaloes Saturday.

Clark’s 29 points led the Hawkeyes, and she added 15 assists as Iowa cruised to an 89-68 win. Saturday’s victory sets up a rematch of last year’s national title game against LSU.

“I think we’re excited. Anytime you have a chance to go up against somebody you lost to, it brings a little more energy,” Clark said. “I think overall it’s just going to be a really great game for women’s basketball. They’re really solid, one through five. We know we are going to have to rebound the basketball.”

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Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts after a 3-pointer against the Colorado Buffaloes during the Sweet 16 of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at MVP Arena March 30, 2024, in Albany, N.Y.  (Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Kim Mulkey coached LSU to the program’s first-ever national title last year. The Tigers defeated Iowa 102-85 in the championship game. The teams are scheduled to play Monday, and the winner will clinch a spot in the Final Four.

“I think everyone’s pretty excited for it,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “These are two really good basketball teams. … Everyone that’s left now is really good. LSU is certainly that. It’s going to be highly emotional and highly competitive.”

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Clark got the Hawkeyes going early, driving to the basket for easy layups or throwing fantastic passes. About the only thing missing from Clark’s day was one of her signature midcourt shots. She took a couple but didn’t convert any.

Caitlin Clark going for layup

Caitlin Clark (22) of the Iowa Hawkeyes drives by Nyamer Diew (5) of the Iowa State Cyclones in the first half at Hilton Coliseum Dec. 6, 2023, in Ames, Iowa.  (David Purdy/Getty Images)

The NCAA’s all-time Division I scoring leader has dazzled off the court as well. She’s a transcendent player who has brought record ratings and attendance to the sport. Clark spent a few minutes after the buzzer signing autographs before she retired to the locker room.

Clark threaded the needle with a beautiful bounce pass to Hannah Stuelke for a layup before the end of the first quarter that gave the Hawkeyes a 22-14 lead. Clark had six points, six assists and three rebounds in the opening 10 minutes.

“We had the punch to begin the third quarter,” Bluder said. “Set the tone early in both the halves, which was really important.”

Iowa Hawkeyes celebrate

Head coach Lisa Bluder of the Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates after a win over the Colorado Buffaloes in the Sweet 16 of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at MVP Arena March 30, 2024, in Albany, N.Y.  (Scott Taetsch/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

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The Buffaloes made their first back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16 since 2002-03. They also were knocked out last year by Iowa, falling 87-77 in the same round.

“It is tough. Never want to go out like that,” Colorado’s Jaylyn Sherrod said. “Some things we can all look back at and say we could have done better. Proud of this team.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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