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South Carolina-Iowa showdown for women's basketball title shatters record with 18.7 million viewers

Sunday's NCAA women's basketball national championship game broke historic ground with a record-setting 18.7 million viewers, as the media frenzy surrounding Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark helped draw new eyes to the sport.

South Carolina beat Iowa 87-75 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. It was the most-watched basketball game since 2019, pro or college, the network said.

"With a record-setting audience of 18.7 million viewers, Sunday’s Iowa-South Carolina title game was a fitting finale to the most-viewed ever NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament,” ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. "These exceptional athletes, coaches and teams captured our attention in unprecedented ways and it’s incumbent on all of us to keep the incredible momentum going."

On Friday, the semifinal matchup between Iowa and Connecticut had 14.2 million viewers, more than every World Series game or NBA Finals game last year.

Iowa beat UConn 71-69 on Friday.

Sunday's championship was the final college game for the celebrated Clark, who gained national attention for breaking Division I scoring records both for women and men.

She scored 30 points in the championship and is headed to the WNBA draft.

It also completed a perfect season for South Carolina, whose Final Four was spoiled last year when Iowa took it out of the tournament.

Kate Martin of the Iowa Hawkeyes looks to shoot around Chloe Kitts of the South Carolina Gamecocks on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland. (Steph Chambers / Getty Images)
Kate Martin of the Iowa Hawkeyes looks to shoot around Chloe Kitts of the South Carolina Gamecocks on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland. (Steph Chambers / Getty Images)

"Saturday Night Live" noted the attention paid to the college women's game. A cold-open spoof of March Madness TV coverage addressed the disparity in interest compared to college men's hoops.

"Women's tourney got the stars, you know," said cast member Kenan Thompson, playing retired NBA star Charles Barkley. "Caitlin Clark is doing ads for State Farm, Subway, Xfinity and Nike. I'm only doing ads for three of those companies."

Asked to give viewers a preview of the men's final, Thompson had to jog his memory and produce some words.

"The men's final this Monday is, I believe, uh, between Quinnimac College versus Northern Southern State," he said.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com