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Dawn Staley, South Carolina Defeat Caitlin Clark-Led Iowa In NCAA Championship

Dawn Staley and the South Carolina Gamecocks made history. Staley and her squad won the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, sending the Caitlin Clark-Iowa Hawkeyes packing. The finale occurred on Sunday (April 7) as the SEC team became the fifth undefeated team in NCAA history to cap the season with a chip. Additionally, South Carolina became only the tenth team in women’s basketball history to complete the year undefeated, going 38-0.

The Hawkeyes were riding high off the success of Clark’s record-breaking season. Iowa began the game on a 10-0 run. At one point, Clark and the sharpshooters were up on South Carolina 20-9. SC shook off the rust and ended the 1st quarter with 20 points to Iowa’s 27. However, after the girls returned to the floor, South Carolina wouldn’t finish a quarter trailing the Big 10 team for the rest of regulation. A part of that is due to Coach Staley putting guard Raven Johnson on Caitlin Clark. And it was “personal” for Johnson because the two athletes have a history.

Clark guarded Johnson during the 2023 NCAA women’s basketball tourney. Raven didn’t play her best in that game, and, at one point, Clark waved off the Atlanta native, telling her teammates not to bother guarding her. Iowa would win that Final Four game 77-73. This defeat fueled Johnson’s determination to prove herself.

“Don’t let her score,” Johnson told 247 Sports, revealing her mindset. “I was ready for the moment and I take defense very hard, like I take it to heart. I studied her moves, and I was ready. I had confidence this year. I was telling myself last year’s not going to happen again.”

Clark finished the game with 30 points, but context matters. When Raven guarded the generational talent, Clark was held to 3-of-11, 27.3 % shooting, and only scored 7 points. A defensive masterclass.

With Caitlin effectively shut down, the exhibition became manageable for a driven South Carolina team that “wasn’t going to be denied,” Louis Vuitton Dawn told ESPN. “It doesn’t always end like you want it to end. I’m just super proud of where I work. It’s unbelievable.”

The massive win arrived just three days after Coach Staley won Associated Press Coach of the Year. Staley and the South Carolina squad went 74-1 over the past two seasons. But it’s more mind-boggling when realizing that the team went undefeated this season without any returning starters from the previous season, making them the first team to do so in the past 25 seasons.

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