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Iowa survives UConn's late-game push to reach NCAA title game

Iowa survives UConn’s late-game push to reach NCAA title game

Tooba Shakir 2 months ago 0 0

The UConn Huskies gave Caitlin Clark fits in the Final Four, but that didn’t matter as the Iowa Hawkeyes are heading to the national title game again after a 71-69 win.

The Huskies’ Nika Mühl made it a one-point game after UConn forced a steal on Iowa, and they would get a chance to take the lead with just seconds left on the clock after forcing a Hawkeyes turnover.

However, UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards was called for a moving screen on Gabbie Marshall as Huskies star Paige Bueckers was trying to run around to get the ball for the potential game-winning shot. 

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Caitlin Clark claps

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts in the second half during the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game against the UConn Huskies at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on April 05, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

UConn legendary head coach Geno Auriemma was livid, as he screamed near his bench after referees called the foul with four seconds left to play. Huskies fans weren’t happy either after seeing video replay on the big screen at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, which showed Edwards moving ever so slightly as Douglas tried to fight over the screen. 

The controversial foul call will be the big storyline for this game, but UConn had another chance once Clark missed her second free throw after being fouled. UConn owned a final timeout, giving them a chance to potentially win the game again, but Sydney Affolter came away with the offensive rebound. 

That ended the game, and while the Huskies couldn’t believe the turn of events with just seconds left to play, Iowa celebrated heading back to the national championship game for the second consecutive season. 

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Last season, they fell to the LSU Tigers, who they beat in the Elite Eight. This time, they will go up against the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks, who beat NC State earlier Friday night to keep their perfect season alive. 

Usually, an Iowa win comes with Clark leading the way on the scoreboard, but as we mentioned, the Huskies made it tough on her all night long. She still finished with 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting, including just 3-of-11 from three, but it was forward Hannah Stuekle leading the Hawkeyes with 23 points in a fantastic offensive performance. 

Paige Bueckers reacts to play

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes reaches for the ball as Paige Bueckers #5 of the UConn Huskies reacts in the second half during the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on April 05, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Stuelke was strong in the paint, hitting nine of her 12 shots and knocking down five of her seven free throw attempts. She also had three rebounds, one assist and one block. 

There was also Kate Martin making solid contributions, especially late in the game as she hit a turnaround, fadeaway jumper over Bueckers gave her 11 points to further Iowa’s lead with 2:59 left the game. 

This game was going UConn’s way early in this one, as Clark’s production was stymied. For the first time in her tournament career, Clark didn’t make a three-pointer in the first half. And while Clark was contested well on her shots beyond the arc, the Hawkeyes couldn’t hold on to the ball, as UConn forced 12 first-half turnovers. 

At one point, the Huskies owned a 12-point lead. However, Iowa was able to cut into it before the first half ended, with the Huskies heading into the locker room with a 32-26 lead.

But the Hawkeyes came out firing in the third quarter, quickly erasing the deficit and starting the fourth quarter all tied up at 51 apiece. 

Hannah Stuekle reacts to play

Hannah Stuelke #45 of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts against the UConn Huskies during the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on April 5, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

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For UConn, Bueckers didn’t have her best night from the field when it came down to it, shooting 7-of-17, including 3-of-8 from deep, for 17 points. And while Edwards’ controversial foul at the end of the game will be the big storyline, she went 8-of-15 from the field for 17 of her own points with eight rebounds, three assists and five steals. 

Freshman guard KK Arnold also had an efficient night for the Huskies, going 6-of-10 for 14 points with five assists and five steals as well. Mühl added nine points and seven assists for UConn. 

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