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It’s Final Four time for Iowa and Louisiana State

By Arnie Leshin 
March Madness came around Sunday to bring Iowa and Louisiana State long-awaited berths in the NCAA Basketball Tournament’s Final Four.
 
From a long-time success as head coach of the Baylor women’s basketball program, Kim Mulkey in her second year at the helm of 3rd-seeded Louisiana State, has the Bayou Tigers in the Final Four via Sunday’s 54-42 win over No. 9 Miami in Greenville, S.C.
 
They were joined earlier in the day by 2nd-seeded Iowa cruising to a 97-83 triumph over No. 5 Louisville in Seattle. It put the Hawkeyes in the semifinals for the first time in 30 years. 
 
For LSU, it was its first trip to that level in 15 years and it will bring a 32-2 record when it meets the winner of Monday night‘s 2nd-seeded Virginia Tech, 4th-seeded Ohio State Elite Eight contest played in Seattle.
 
Iowa, in turn, comes in at 30-6 when it faces the survivor of Monday night Elite Eight between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 Maryland in Greenville. 
 
For the Hawkeyes, it was no surprise who paved the way as All-America sharpshooting junior Caitlin Clark tossed in a career-high 41 points, brought down 10 rebounds, and dished out 12 assists.
 
“I thought our team played really well, and that’s what it’s all about,” Clark said. “I was going to give it all I had to give, for when I came here I said I wanted to take this program to the Final Four, and now we’re headed to Dallas.”
 
No problem selecting Clark as the region’s most outstanding player. She had the 11th triple-double of her career and the 19th in NCAA tournament history. She had the first and 30- and 40-point triple-doubles in the Division I tournament history.
 
She said, “We might not be the most athletic, we might not be the the fastest, we might not be the best defenders, but we play for one another, and that’s going to take you very far.” 
 
Trialing by five at the half, Louisville cut the deficit to 48-47 before Clark-led Iowa to the next 11 points as part of a 17-6 run to blow the game wide open before most of the pro-Hawkeye turnout of nearly 12,000.
 
The Tigers, who wound up at 26-12 and received the team-high 27 points from senior Hailey Van Lith, had scored the first eight points of the game, and thanks to talented guard Van Lith, managed to hang around until the next Clark run put them out of reach. 
 
Iowa hadn’t been to the Final Four since Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer led the program to its lone appearance back in 1993, and prior to Sunday, the Hawkeyes had only been to one other Elite Eight, that in 2019. 
 
LSU played a stingy defense holding upset-minded Miami to its lowest total of the season. On offense, Alexis Morris turned in the game-high 21 points and All-America teammate Angel Reese added 13. 
 
The Bayou Tigers’ field goal shooting was at a low 30.2% and they were only 1-for-12 from beyond the arc. But the Canes were even worse in missing all of their 3-point attempts.
 
But the rebounding belonged to LSU, 49-35, as Reese latched onto 13, and had a big edge in second-chance points, and now meets up with the winner of Monday’s Virginia Tech-Ohio State contest. 
 
Miami concluded at 22-13 after taking a wild ride to get this far. It was led by Jasmyne Roberts’ 22 points while playing in its initial Elite Eight, but it struggled offensively despite playing better defense, had some chances, but just couldn’t make the needed shots.

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