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US college sensation Clark leads Iowa past LSU Tigers

Caitlin Clark celebrates leading the Iowa Hawkeyes back to the final four of US college basketball's national championship with victory over the LSU Tigers (ANDY LYONS)
Caitlin Clark celebrates leading the Iowa Hawkeyes back to the final four of US college basketball's national championship with victory over the LSU Tigers (ANDY LYONS)

US women's college basketball sensation Caitlin Clark scored 41 points as the University of Iowa avenged their defeat over Louisiana State University in last year's national championship showdown with a 94-87 victory on Monday.

Clark, the all-time leading scorer in the history of collegiate basketball, produced a stunning exhibition of long-range shooting to lead the Hawkeyes into the final four of the tournament known as March Madness.

The 22-year-old prodigy, who is playing her final season of college basketball before heading into the WNBA, drained nine three-pointers with a scintillating performance at the MVP Arena in Albany, New York.

"This one feels a little bit better," Clark said after Monday's win. "It's my senior year with this group, and a lot of people counted us out at the beginning of the year.

"And all we did was work really hard...But the job's not finished."

Anticipation for Monday's game had dominated the US sporting headlines in the build-up, shoving the NBA, baseball and ice hockey out of the spotlight ahead of a game that was broadcast in primetime on ESPN.

Clark set the tone for an absorbing battle against old rival Angel Reese after nailing the opening score of the night with a trademark three-pointer.

LSU star Reese threatened to end Clark's college career on a downbeat note after helping the Tigers rally back from an early 12-4 deficit to open up an eight-point lead in the second quarter.

But Clark led a stirring Iowa fightback to help level the score 45-45 at half-time before cutting loose after the restart to help the Hawkeyes surge into a 11-point 69-58 lead at the end of third quarter.

- Scoring spree -

Clark rattled in four of her three-pointers in the third quarter to help take the game away from LSU and stay on track for a fairytale ending to her collegiate career.

"I think just confidence, being confident in all the work that I put in, trusting my team-mates," Clark said of her third quarter scoring spree.

"We knew it was going to be physical but we weathered every storm. But you've got to give them a lot of credit they had a great year."

Reese's night ended in disappointment, meanwhile with the LSU star fouling out late in the fourth quarter and finishing with 17 points.

Clark is regarded as one of the greatest players -- male or female -- in the history of college basketball, an iconic, generational talent who this season overtook 1960s star Pete Maravich as the all-time leading scorer in collegiate hoops.

Her career has sparked a commercial bonanza for college basketball, attracting sellout crowds and drawing huge television audiences.

Her impact -- dubbed the "Caitlin Clark Effect" has been compared to singer Taylor Swift and has even seen her followers dubbed "Clarkies", mirroring Swift's fervent fanbase of "Swifties".

Rule changes to US college sports have allowed her to accept endorsement deals with such sponsors as Nike, Gatorade and State Farm, even finding her way onto TV commercials while still in school.

rcw/dw