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Caitlin Clark, Iowa avenge national championship loss with 94-87 win over LSU

Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese facing off again
Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese facing off again with Final Four trip at stake 04:15

Caitlin Clark is leading Iowa back to the Final Four for the second consecutive year, scoring 41 points to defeat defending champion LSU 94-87 Monday night. It was, for the team, also a decisive clapback after the Tigers knocked the Hawkeyes out in last year's title game.

At the same time, Dawn Stanley and undefeated South Carolina are looking to deny Iowa their latest chance at the championship.

The women's basketball world will descend on Cleveland for the national semifinals on Friday and the championship game two days later.

"That's obviously our goal. That's where we want to be," Clark said. "But you've got to win one at a time. There's still two more there to get. That's what makes the Final Four so fun. Anybody can take it. Anybody can win it."

Next up for Iowa is UConn, the team that knocked them out of the tournament in Clark's freshman season. The Huskies beat Southern California 80-73 in the other regional final on Monday night.

Staley's team will face North Carolina State, which is making its first appearance in the Final Four since 1998.

A lot of attention will be on Clark, which Staley doesn't mind, because it means her unbeaten team is flying a bit under the radar. It's the second consecutive year that South Carolina has reached the Final Four undefeated and the fourth in a row the team has advanced at least this far.

Most of the talk this season has focused on star players across the country like Clark, USC's JuJu Watkins, UConn's Paige Bueckers and Notre Dame's Hannah Hidalgo.

The Gamecocks, who have an entire new starting five this year, aren't built around just one player. They have taken a back seat as far as attention goes.

"I like it. I really do. Like go ahead, take the spotlight, put it somewhere else," Staley said. "Let this team continue to thrive in the space that they're given. Hopefully at the end of the day, next week this time, I'm hoping that we give a lot of people a lot to talk about."

Like South Carolina, there wasn't much expectation for the Wolfpack to make the Final Four. They were unranked coming into the start of the season, making N.C. State the first unranked team in the preseason poll to reach the Final Four since Washington did it in 2016. Wins over UConn and Colorado before December gave notice that the Wolfpack really were a good team.

N.C. State was one win away from reaching the national semifinals two years ago before losing to UConn in double overtime in the Elite Eight.

"I think of Kay Yow — 34 years at N.C. State and took this program to a Final Four in '98," Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said. "I think of the players two years ago that were a double-overtime game away from being in this exact spot. So I think of them. And then I think of these players, again, overcoming all the doubts and questions and just — Final Four, y'all."

Moore knows his team has a tall task ahead against the Gamecocks.

"They're a great, great team. Obviously, the best team in the country. But you're not playing a four-out-of-seven series. You're playing one game, OK?" he said. "So we've just got to find a way to win one game against them, and it's going to be a big challenge."

UConn is back in the Final Four after seeing its 14-year run end last season in a loss to Ohio State. Now the Huskies will have to figure out a way to slow down Clark, who has been nearly unstoppable the last two years.

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