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Iowa star Caitlin Clark pours in 30 points in final NCAA game but Hawkeyes fall to South Carolina

CLEVELAND (AP) — Caitlin Clark’s singular collegiate career ended with a slew of records but not the one title she hoped to bring to Iowa.

The NCAA’s all-time leading scorer poured in a game-high 30 points in Sunday’s national championship against unbeaten South Carolina, including a record 18 in the opening quarter.

The 22-year-old cooled off a bit from there, however, as the Gamecocks pulled away for an 87-75 victory, making the Hawkeyes the national runner-up for a second straight season.

Clark made 10 of 28 shots — including 5 of 13 3-pointers — and finished her four-year stay in Iowa City, Iowa with 3,951 points, an NCAA record for both men and women. Clark added five assists and eight rebounds.

Ava Jones supporting her teammates at NCAA Championship

Her run to a second straight NCAA final helped turn the women’s tournament into appointment television. Her performances have set a new TV ratings record for women’s college basketball twice in the last week alone, with another record likely waiting after the title game.

Clark has tried to take her blossoming stardom in stride, frequently deflecting much of the attention to her Iowa teammates and a sport that is having a moment.

“I personally want to thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport,” Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said. “She carried a heavy load for our sport. … Caitlin Clark if you’re out there you’re one of the GOATs of our game. We appreciate you.”

  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives past South Carolina guard <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaw/players/67514/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Bree Hall;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Bree Hall</a> (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder talks with guard Caitlin Clark (22) at the end of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. South Carolina won 87-75. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
    Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder talks with guard Caitlin Clark (22) at the end of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. South Carolina won 87-75. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark stands on the court during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark stands on the court during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina forward Sania Feagin (20) during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina forward Sania Feagin (20) during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) passes over South Carolina guard <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaw/players/67515/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Raven Johnson;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Raven Johnson</a> (25) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates after making a three-point basket during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates after making a three-point basket during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives up court past South Carolina guard Raven Johnson, left, during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives up court past South Carolina guard Raven Johnson, left, during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark drives past South Carolina guard Bree Hall, left, during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark drives past South Carolina guard Bree Hall, left, during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, left, tries to steal the ball from South Carolina forward Sania Feagin during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, left, tries to steal the ball from South Carolina forward Sania Feagin during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) runs down a loose ball between South Carolina guard Raven Johnson (25) and center <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaw/players/64660/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kamilla Cardoso;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kamilla Cardoso</a> (10) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives past South Carolina guard Raven Johnson (25) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives past South Carolina guard Raven Johnson (25) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives past South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives past South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder talks with guard Caitlin Clark (22) at the end of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. South Carolina won 87-75. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
    Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder talks with guard Caitlin Clark (22) at the end of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. South Carolina won 87-75. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark stands on the court during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark stands on the court during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina forward Sania Feagin (20) during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina forward Sania Feagin (20) during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall during the second half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) passes over South Carolina guard Raven Johnson (25) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) passes over South Carolina guard Raven Johnson (25) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates after making a three-point basket during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates after making a three-point basket during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game against South Carolina in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives up court past South Carolina guard Raven Johnson, left, during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives up court past South Carolina guard Raven Johnson, left, during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark drives past South Carolina guard Bree Hall, left, during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark drives past South Carolina guard Bree Hall, left, during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
    Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) shoots over South Carolina guard Bree Hall (23) during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women’s NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

She always had the full attention of opposing coaches. And South Carolina’s depth proved to be too much in front of a packed Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. It never is with Clark.

She came out firing, scoring 18 of Iowa’s final 20 points in the first quarter as the Hawkeyes built a quick 27-20 lead. The Gamecocks used multiple defenders to try to keep up with Clark. It didn’t seem to matter. She knocked down three 3-pointers in the opening 10 minutes, including a rainbow over 6-foot-7 South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso.

The 18 points broke the single-quarter record of 16 set by LSU’s Jasmine Carlson in the second quarter of the Tigers’ win over Iowa in last year’s title game.

The NCAA went to a quarter system in 2016.

South Carolina, however, recovered to capture its second championship in three years.

Clark checked out with 20 seconds remaining, earning a huge from coach Lisa Bluder while the crowd gave her a lengthy standing ovation.

___

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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