Advertisement

Perfect Champs! South Carolina upends Iowa to win 2024 NCAA national title

Deferred. Not denied. And never in doubt.

Sweet, sweet revenge.

No. 1 South Carolina defeated No. 1 Iowa 87-75 in the NCAA championship game Sunday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.

The Gamecocks completed their “revenge tour,” having redeemed their 2023 Final Four loss to the Hawkeyes and, in doing so, won the program’s third national championship. This USC team is the 10th in Division I history to go undefeated (38-0) and win a national title.

“So proud. So proud. So proud,” a tearful Dawn Staley told ESPN after the game. “I’m so incredibly happy for our players. It doesn’t always end like you want it to end, much like last year. ... I’m just super proud of where I work, I’m super proud of our FAMS. It’s just awesome — it’s unbelievable.”

South Carolina started guards Te-Hina Paopao, Raven Johnson and Bree Hall along with forward Chloe Kitts and center Kamilla Cardoso.

Four Gamecocks scored in double digits Sunday: Cardoso (15), Paopao (14), Tessa Johnson (19), Kitts (11).

“All I have to say is, the ‘revenge tour’ is over,” Raven Johnson said on ESPN during the postgame celebration.

Here are three takeaways from the championship game:

The Gamecocks celebrate winning the National Championship against Iowa at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland on Sunday, April 7, 2024. Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com
The Gamecocks celebrate winning the National Championship against Iowa at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland on Sunday, April 7, 2024. Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com

Tough start, strong response for USC

Iowa opened the championship game on a 10-0 run.

South Carolina started 0-of-6 from the field. Not the kind of beginning a team would hope for when playing the nation’s best scoring offense.

But the Gamecocks showed poise and fought back, leading to five ties and three changes in the first half. They capitalized off Iowa turnovers, turning its five lost possessions into 11 points. USC’s depth also shined in the resurgence, scoring 22 of the team’s 49 points before intermission.

Defense also tightened up after the first period. Iowa’s Caitlin Clark score 18 points in the first 10 minutes. South Carolina held her to just 3 in the second and 4 in the third.

USC outscored Iowa 29-19 in the second quarter and 19-13 in the third. Iowa went on an 8-0 run during the fourth and later cut it to five (80-75), but South Carolina held on.

South Carolina’s Raven Johnson (25) swipes the ball from Iowa’s Caitlin Clark (22) during the National Championship game at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday April 7, 2024. Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com
South Carolina’s Raven Johnson (25) swipes the ball from Iowa’s Caitlin Clark (22) during the National Championship game at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday April 7, 2024. Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com

South Carolina dominates the boards

As they usually do, the Gamecocks outrebounded the Hawkeyes handily Sunday.

Through three quarters, USC had 38 boards (25 defensive and 13 offensive) to Iowa’s 25 (19 defensive six offensive). South Carolina turned those 13 offensive boards into 21 points, and the defensive boards denied Iowa many chances to score.

The Gamecocks ended the night with 51 rebounds, led by 17 from Cardoso — who was named the Final Four’s most outstanding player.

Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall (24) pressures South Carolina’s MaLaysia Fulwiley (12) during the National Championship game at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday April 7, 2024. Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com
Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall (24) pressures South Carolina’s MaLaysia Fulwiley (12) during the National Championship game at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday April 7, 2024. Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com

New Gamecocks make a difference

MiLaysia Fulwiley, Tessa Johnson and Te-Hina Paopao contributed big to South Carolina’s gritty first-half performance.

Fulwiley, as she is prone to do, provided an immediate spark for the Gamecocks coming off the bench. She dropped a nice pass to Sania Feagin inside to cut Iowa’s lead to single digits for the first time and scored 7 points in her first three minutes on the court.

Tessa Johnson — who joined Cardoso on the All-Final Four team — hit big shots, including a 3-pointer to tie the game at 34 apiece. Paopao hit three 3s in the first half.

Fulwiley launched a pass from one end of the court to the other for Tessa Johnson, who drained the wide-open 3 in the third quarter. It was her third 3 of the game and USC’s eighth overall.

South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso (10) is recognized as the Most Outstanding Player as the Gamecocks celebrate winning the National Championship against Iowa at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com
South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso (10) is recognized as the Most Outstanding Player as the Gamecocks celebrate winning the National Championship against Iowa at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com