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South Carolina-Iowa final draws in nearly 19 million viewers

The national championship game between South Carolina and Iowa smashed ratings records after averaging nearly 19 million viewers, ESPN said.

The South Carolina Gamecocks beat college superstar Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes 87-75, finishing the season undefeated. An average of 18.9 million viewers turned on the final, making it the most watched women's college basketball game ever, according to data from Nielsen, ESPN said Tuesday. The epic finale, which was broadcast on ABC and ESPN, peaked at 24.1 million viewers in the game's final 15 minutes.

Caitlin Clark dribbles the ball during the second half at the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament championship game between Iowa and South Carolina at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. / Credit: Thien-An Truong/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Caitlin Clark dribbles the ball during the second half at the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament championship game between Iowa and South Carolina at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. / Credit: Thien-An Truong/ISI Photos/Getty Images

ESPN said viewership also significantly increased from the two most recent women's national championship games – up 90% from 2023 and 289% from 2022.

It was the second most-watched non-Olympic women's sporting event ever on U.S. television behind the 2015 Women's World Cup Final, according to ESPN. It's also the most-watched basketball game – college or pro, men's or women's – in five years.

Much of the attention to the game came, in part, because of Clark, who was playing her last college game after a historic career as a Hawkeye. She became the all-time NCAA Division I scoring leader, surpassing Pete Maravich's 54-year-old record. Clark's expected to be the top draft pick in next week's WNBA draft and has already prompted the Las Vegas Aces to change venues for their July 2 game against the Indiana Fever, which is widely expected to pick up Clark.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley raises the championship trophy during a celebration at Colonial Life Arena on Monday in Columbia, South Carolina. / Credit: Sean Rayford / Getty Images
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley raises the championship trophy during a celebration at Colonial Life Arena on Monday in Columbia, South Carolina. / Credit: Sean Rayford / Getty Images

The Gamecocks, led by coach Dawn Staley, returned to campus and celebrated in front of fans at Colonial Life Arena on Monday. Staley praised Clark following Sunday's game, calling her "one of the GOATs of our game."

"We need as many eyeballs on our sport as Caitlin Clark is putting on our sport, like every year," she said on "CBS Mornings." "She's leaving us after this season and need to be replaced with some talented players that are coming up, some talented teams. And I think we're in a very good place because we're in high demand. People want to see the talent in our sport. And if we continue that, those numbers will be consistent even when Caitlin leaves."

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