The No. 3 seed LSU Tigers became the first team to break 100 points in a national championship game and ended what was a dominant season early on against weak competition by proving their seeding status wrong and bringing home the program’s first title Sunday afternoon at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
The 102-85 decision was a true team effort for the Tigers, with Jasmine Carson scoring all 21 of her points in the first half on 5-of-5 shooting from distance, Alexis Morris (21 points, nine assists) being absolutely killer from mid-range late to eliminate any hope for the opposing Iowa Hawkeyes and LaDazhia Williams adding 20 points. The team’s best player, Angel Reese, capped her junior season and first at LSU with her 34th double-double of the season. She had 15 points and 10 rebounds, the six offensive ones being particularly key. She added five helpers and three steals and won Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
LSU led 59-42 at the break after Carson banked in a triple at the buzzer of the first half. It seemed that the Tigers could do no wrong. The No. 2 seed Hawkeyes cut it as close as seven in the second half, but would get no closer. Iowa’s second-best player, Monika Czinano, a fifth-year senior, ended her career when she fouled out with 6:25 to play. Iowa’s best player and the National Player of the Year, Caitlin Clark, picked up a technical for her fourth foul on what was a terrible call by the refs with 1:03 remaining in the third. That affected the way she played over the remainder of the contest.
Clark finished with 30 points in defeat and 191 for the entire tournament, which set an NCAAW record, surpassing the 177 Sheryl Swoopes accomplished in 1993 in one less game than Clark. Clark also set a new national championship game record with eight made threes; she relied far more on the long ball than she did against South Carolina in the semifinals, making just one 2-pointer.
When Iowa’s Kate Martin hit a straightaway three that rolled around and in to cut it to eight with 8:45 remaining, Morris answered with back-to-back mid-range makes that pushed the lead back to 12. Morris would later give the Tigers a 16-point advantage on a mid-range make at 6:17 and on two free throws at 5:36. She then made a floater that made it 95-82 with 1:58 to go before Kateri Poole threw in a three to make it 98-82 at 1:13. At that point, LSU knew it had won.
Czinano made a layup at 3:02 in the third to cut it to 69-62. LSU head coach Kim Mulkey asked for a review to see if Czinano should have been called for an intentional foul and lost the challenge, causing the Tigers to lose a timeout and opening the door for a momentum swing. But Morris made two free throws off the Clark technical to give LSU an 11-point lead entering the final frame.
Iowa loved the left wing early in the third. It’s first four treys of the frame all came from there and the last of those, Clark’s sixth of the contest, cut it to eight at the 5:22 mark. Clark’s seventh three was an amazing fadeaway from the right wing, but only cut the deficit to nine.
LSU went on a 32-10 run that took the score from 32-31 Iowa to 63-42 Tigers. A deep three from Carson at 4:12 in the second and a falling-down three from Last-Tear Poa at 2:41 in the second both gave the Tigers a 13-point lead. LSU pushed it to a 14-point lead when a Williams steal led to a Flau’jae Johson lay-in in transition at 34 seconds remaining in the first half. On the ensuing possession, Martin traveled, and on the next possession after that Carson hit her half-closing triple, which was a desperation attempt.
Iowa led 7-3 early and seemed to be playing better than LSU, yet the score quickly started to no longer reflect that. The Hawkeyes let an opportunity to control the game slip away.