April 2, 2024 

‘Is she just better than us?’: LSU’s repeat shot ends at the hands of Caitlin Clark, Iowa

In a game the world will never forget, the Tigers end up on the losing end this time

ALBANY, N.Y. — With eight minutes left in the game, Iowa star Caitlin Clark buried her eighth 3-pointer of the night, going around a screen set by Hannah Stuelke and letting it fly over the outstretched hands of Hailey van Lith. It was a shot that gave the Hawkeyes a 10-point lead, and one that had LSU coach Kim Mulkey searching for answers.

The 39-year coaching veteran then turned to her assistant, Gary Redus.

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“Is she just faster than us?” Mulkey asked Redus, with a look of resignation. “Is she just better than us?” 

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The question wasn’t delivered rhetorically or sarcastically — it was was sincere, genuine. Clark had been dominating LSU’s defensive efforts all night, and there was nothing the Tigers could do to stop her. 

“Can y’all not move and get in front of her?,” she bellowed to her team earlier in the game during a timeout.

Mulkey was frustrated. Despite her team’s best efforts, LSU settled for jumpers that had little chance of going in rather than feeding the post, as she instructed all game. Their transition defense wasn’t good enough. Iowa was at their best and the Tigers had no answer for them. 

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And no one was better than Clark, who finished the game with 41 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists. A year ago, it was LSU that bested the Hawkeyes to win the national title. This time, Iowa and Clark knocked out the Tigers, 94-87, ending any chance at a back-to-back national title and keeping LSU out of the Final Four.

“She’s just a generational player,” Mulkey said of Clark. “She just makes everyone around her better. That’s what the great ones do.” 

This year, the Tigers will head back to Baton Rouge empty-handed. But an Elite Eight is nothing to wallow about — and they won’t. LSU hadn’t made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in seven years until Mulkey arrived. In three years at the helm, she’s racked up a 91-13 record, three straight seasons as a No. 3 seed and the program’s first national title.

Mulkey is proud of her team and all that they had to overcome this season. The spotlight has been centered on the Tigers ever since they won it all last season – and most of the attention has not been positive. 

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“I’ve been through so much,” Angel Reese said. “I’ve seen so much. I’ve been attacked so many times. Death threats, I’ve been sexualized, I’ve been threatened. I’ve been so many things, and I’ve stood strong every single time.” 

Reese’s college career may be over now. She has 48 hours to decide whether she wants to declare for the WNBA Draft or come back for her final season of eligibility. Regardless, she’ll go down in college basketball history as a champion. 

In Monday night’s game, Reese finished with 17 points, 20 rebounds and four assists before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. She ends her season with a record 10th consecutive double-double in an NCAA Tournament game and, whether she stays in college or decides to head to the WNBA, an unquestioned impact on the college women’s basketball scene.

“To have stars that LSU has and to have stars like Caitlin on our team, I think that just really grows the game,” Iowa’s Kate Martin said. “In that aspect, it’s really cool. I’m sure we got some great viewership tonight in this game. I think a lot of people were looking forward to this game.”

It was a rematch the world was anticipating and watching intently. One year after their national title showdown shattered viewership records, some projected Part 2 of Iowa-LSU to be one of the most-watched women’s basketball games of all-time … and potentially even No. 1. 

“These young people will have a memory of being a part of something that was this great tonight, many of them being a part of winning a championship last year,” Mulkey said. “I can’t describe to you how good it is right now in women’s basketball. That’s why I wished this game could have been at the Final Four. Wow. Sure was good for an Elite Eight game.”

When the buzzer sounded and Iowa was officially victorious, the two teams began their postgame handshake line. When Mulkey reached Clark, she embraced her.

“I sure am glad you’re leaving,” Mulkey told Clark.

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Written by Talia Goodman

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