Clark, Iowa end perfect South Carolina season in Final Four

Clark, Iowa end perfect South Carolina season in Final Four

DALLAS — Caitlin Clark overwhelmed the reigning champions with another sensational game, scoring 41 points to help Iowa spoil South Carolina’s perfect season with a 77-73 victory on Friday night in the Final Four.

The spectacular junior guard set a record for the highest-scoring semifinal game and became the first women’s player to post back-to-back 40-point games in the NCAA Tournament. She now has the Hawkeyes in a spot they’ve never been in before — one victory away from a national championship.

They’ll have to beat another SEC team to do that as Iowa (31-6) will face LSU in the title game on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers beat Virginia Tech in the other national semifinal.

Thanks to the spectacular play of Clark and the historic year by South Carolina, this was one of the most talked about and highly anticipated matchups in women’s Final Four history,

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The game lived up to the hype surrounding it— the best player vs. the best team — much to the delight of the sellout crowd of over 19,000 fans.

Coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina (36-1) had won 42 in a row, including last year’s championship game.

This was Iowa’s first appearance in the Final Four in 30 years. The last time the Hawkeyes advanced this far was 1993 and C. Vivian Stringer was the coach of that team that lost to Ohio State in overtime.

Clark wowed the crowd that included Harper Stribe, a young fan of the team who has been battling cancer. She was featured in a surprise video that informed the Hawkeyes’ star that she was the AP Player of the Year.

Trailing 59-55 entering the fourth quarter, South Carolina scored the first five points to take the lead. Clark answered right back with two deep 3-pointers and an assist to Monika Czinano to give the Hawkeyes a 67-62 lead.

South Carolina got within 69-68 on Raven Johnson’s 3-pointer before Clark got a steal for a layup with 3:32 left. Neither team scored again until star Aliyah Boston was fouled with 1:37 left. She made the second of two free throws.

Clark then scored another layup on the other end out of a timeout to make it a four-point game. After a layup by Zia Cooke made it a two-point game with 58 seconds left, the Hawkeyes ran the clock down with McKenna Warnock grabbing a huge offensive rebound off a Clark miss with 18 seconds remaining.

Clark hit two free throws after South Carolina fouled her with 13.5 seconds left. They were her 38th and 39th point, moving her past Nneka Ogwumike for the most points scored in a Final Four semifinal game.

After a putback by Johnson with 9.9 seconds left got the Gamecocks within 75-73, Clark sealed the game with two more free throws.

As the final seconds went off the clock Clark threw the ball high in the air and galloped around the court.

The loss ended a spectacular season for the defending champion Gamecocks, who were trying to become the 10th team to go through a season unbeaten.

Cooke led the Gamecocks with 24 points. Slowed by foul trouble, Boston had just eight points and 10 rebounds as the Hawkeyes packed the paint, daring South Carolina to shoot from the outside.

The Gamecocks finished 4-for-20 from behind the 3-point line and couldn’t take advantage of their 49-25 advantage on the boards that included 26 offensive rebounds.

NCAA LSU Virginia Tech Basketball

LSU players celebrate after defeating Virginia Tech in Friday’s NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinal in Dallas.

LSU 79, VIRGINIA TECH 72: Alexis Morris scored 27 points and had two of her misses in the fourth quarter turned into putback baskets by Angel Reese in a big run as LSU rallied to beat top-seeded Virginia Tech.

Reese finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds for LSU (33-2), which is going to the national championship game for the first time.

The win came in the second season since feisty and flamboyantly dressed coach Kim Mulkey — in a carnation pink top this time — returned to her home state to take over a Tigers program that lost five consecutive national semifinal games from 2004-08 the only other times they made it this far.

Mulkey, who won three national titles in four Final Four appearances over her 21 seasons at Baylor, is only the second coach to take two different teams to the national championship game. The other was C. Vivian Stringer, with Cheyney in the inaugural 1982 women’s tournament and Rutgers in 2007.

Trailing 59-50 after three quarters, LSU went ahead with a 15-0 run over a five-minute span in the fourth period. They led for the first time since late in the first half when Falu’jae Johnson had a steal and drove for a layup to make it 64-62.

Reese had six points in that game-turning spurt, including a basket after Morris’ attempted 3-pointer clanked off the front rim. Reese had a second-effort follow of her own miss after rebounding another miss by Morris.

LaDazhia Williams added 16 points for LSU.

Elizabeth Kitley had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia Tech (31-5), the ACC champion that was in the Final Four for the first time. Georgia Amoore and Kayana Traylor each had 17 points, while Cayla King had 14.

Amoore set an record for the most 3-pointers in a single NCAA Tournament with 24, though she had a tough night shooting — 4 of 17 overall, including 4 of 15 from beyond the arc. She passed Kia Nurse’s record 22 set in the 2017 tourney for UConn, which lost in the national semifinals on the same court. Arizona’s Aari McDonald had 22 in six NCAA tourney games two years ago.

The big run for LSU came right after Amoore made her last 3-pointer with 7:52 left for a 62-57 lead. The Hokies didn’t make another basket until King’s 3 with 1:19 left.

Morris had opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for LSU, then had a driving layup in a quick 7-0 run that prompted a timeout by Hokies coach Kenny Brooks.

The Hokies ended the first half with an 11-0 run to lead for the first time, at 34-32 on Traylor’s driving layup with 53 seconds left.

LSU went scoreless over the last 4:48 while missing its last six shots after Virginia Tech switched to a zone defense. That included three misses by Reese, who had a late shot blocked by Kitley.

Virginia Tech had trailed for only 9 1/2 minutes combined in its first four NCAA Tournament games, easily the best mark by the four teams that made it to Dallas.

But the Tigers led for 17:55 of the first half with the Hokies getting off to such a slow start shooting — they missed eight of their first nine shots — that an LSU cheerleader had an assist even before they officially had a shot.

King was charged with a turnover on a ball that hit the rim and bounced over the top of the backboard and got stuck there. With encouragement from officials and others at that end, a male cheerleader lifted up a female cheerleader, who knocked the ball down.

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Caitlin Clark delivers a show, and Iowa will play for a title

Caitlin Clark delivers a show, and Iowa will play for a title

DALLAS — This was the show we came to see. 

Caitlin Clark had 41 points, eight assists and six rebounds and Iowa beat South Carolina 77-73 in the Final Four. As the seconds wound down, Clark dribbled underneath the basket, threw the ball up into the crowd and waved her arms up in her best Gladiator impression as if to ask the crowd, “are you not entertained?”

Clark literally willed her team into the national championship. After putting on a show in the Elite Eight, when she became the first player to ever record a 40-point triple-double in the NCAA tournament (women’s or men’s), we wondered how she would follow up that performance. Especially against No. 1 overall seed South Carolina, the defending champions who seemed destined to win back-to-back titles for the first time since UConn did it in 2016.

The Gamecocks were riding a perfect season. They were supposed to go onto become undefeated national champions, previously riding a 42-game winning streak that dated back to last year’s SEC title game loss to Kentucky.

Clark didn’t care. As everyone knows, she’s been the magic show of the season. She’s fearless like Steph Curry and oozes confidence and swagger like Diana Taurasi, who was watching in person here in Dallas. Clark plays to the crowd and can pull up from the logo like it’s an easy jump shot. 

Except the funny thing about this Final Four win is that Clark didn’t even have a logo 3. She actually went 5-of-17 from behind the arc. Iowa, which averages 37% per game from that range, was only good for 30%.

Iowa led 59-55 heading into the fourth quarter, but it didn’t seem like it could sustain the style of play. South Carolina was too aggressive on the boards. Even though two-time defensive player of the year Aliyah Boston wasn’t playing lights out, South Carolina could rely on the 6-foot-7 Kamila Cardosa to make plays, and she did. But then Clark scored or assisted on every single point in the fourth quarter, and about midway through it, there was an overwhelming feeling that the mighty Gamecocks were going down.

“Let’s go Hawks!” chants reverberated throughout the American Airlines Center and it actually felt like the entire sellout crowd of 19,288 fans was on their side.

Iowa came out hot to start the game. The Hawkeyes took off early and jumped out to a 22-13 lead after one quarter. South Carolina coach Dawn Staley gave various players the assignment of guarding Clark, as Kierra Fletcher, Raven Johnson, Laeticia Amihere and Bree Hall all tried their best. But it didn’t matter because Clark blew past all of them and by halftime she had 19 points and six assists. A stat line most players would be happy with at the end of a game. Iowa pushed the pace, forced turnovers and made the Gamecocks uncomfortable. Boston even left the first quarter early with two fouls and sat on the bench until halftime. She played eight minutes in the first half.

Iowa defied all odds and still won. South Carolina outrebounded Iowa 49-25, its bench scored 38 points and had 24 second-chance points to Iowa’s eight.

It’s just a testament to the legendary reputation that Clark is building.

And the best part for fans everywhere is that no matter what happens in Sunday’s title game, Clark is only a junior and has at least one more season left in Iowa. 

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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Trump indictment throws 2024 race into uncharted territory; MLB, Judge start on high note | Hot Off The Wire, March 31, 2023

Trump indictment throws 2024 race into uncharted territory; MLB, Judge start on high note | Hot Off The Wire, March 31, 2023

On this version of Hot off the Wire:

» The historic indictment of former President Donald Trump has thrust the 2024 presidential election into uncharted territory

Here’s a look at the hush money case, the grand jury investigation and possible ramifications for Trump’s presidential campaign.

» The Quad-City region is now at a Level 4 risk, or moderate risk, for severe storms on Friday that are expected to pack damaging winds and could produce large hail, lightning and possibly spawn a tornado, the National Weather Service, Davenport, said.

» The Vatican says that Pope Francis is expected to be discharged on Saturday from the Rome hospital where he is being treated for bronchitis.

The Vatican says that Pope Francis is expected to be discharged on Saturday from the Rome hospital where he is being treated for bronchitis. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a written statement on Friday that the pope’s recovery has been “normal” and that he ate a pizza Thursday for dinner. The 86-year-old Francis was hospitalized on Wednesday at Gemelli Polyclinic where doctors said the pontiff was receiving antibiotics intravenously to treat his bronchitis. The Vatican then said that Francis will be St. Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass to mark the start of Holy Week, which culminates on Easter, April 9.

» The president of Belarus says Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed in his country along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal.

Belarus’ president says Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed in his country along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced this week that his country intended to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. The strategic nuclear weapons such as missile-borne warheads that Lukashenko mentioned during his state-of-the nation address on Friday would pose an even greater threat if Moscow moves them to the territory of its neighbor and ally. Lukashenko delivered his annual address amid escalating tensions over the conflict in Ukraine and his and Putin’s contentions that Western powers want to ruin Russia and Belarus.

» Gwyneth Paltrow’s live-streamed trial over a 2016 ski collision at a posh Utah resort has drawn worldwide attention, spawned memes and sparked debate about the burden and power of celebrity.

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» MLB, Judge start on high note; Final Four Weekend

Aaron Judge smashing the ball into the stands has become a regular sight for baseball fans. And on the opening day of the new season, he treated fans to another explosive display.

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John Brockington, former Ohio State running back, dies at 74

John Brockington, former Ohio State running back, dies at 74

The Green Bay Packers announced Brockington died Friday in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO — John Brockington, a former All-Pro fullback with the Green Bay Packers and Ohio State Buckeyes, has died. He was 74.

The Packers announced Brockington died Friday in San Diego.

Brockington played for the Packers from 1971-77 and rushed for 5,024 yards during that stretch. The only players to gain more yards rushing with the Packers are Ahman Green (8,322 from 2000-09), Jim Taylor (8,207 from 1958-66) and Aaron Jones (5,284 from 2017-present).

He was the first running back in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.

Brockington also spent part of the 1977 season with the Kansas City Chiefs and finished his career with 5,185 yards rushing. He had 30 touchdown runs and four touchdown catches.

The Packers selected Brockington, a native of the Brooklyn borough of New York City, out of Ohio State with the ninth overall pick in the 1971 draft. Brockington was part of the 1968 Ohio State team that won the National Championship.

Brockington rushed for 1,105 yards his first season in Green Bay, which at the time was an NFL rookie record. He earned All-Pro honors and was named NFL offensive rookie of the year.

He followed that up by rushing for 1,027 yards in 1972 while helping the Packers win an NFC Central title. Brockington rushed for 1,144 yards in 1973.

Brockington earned three straight Pro Bowl selections from 1971-73. He was inducted into the Packers’ hall of fame in 1984.

“The Packers family was saddened to hear about the passing of John,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement. “One of the great runners of his era, John was an exciting player to watch with his powerful running style. Fans enthusiastically welcomed John back to Lambeau Field over the years, fondly remembering the 1972 division championship as well as the bright spots he provided in the less-successful seasons.

“I enjoyed getting to know John during his return visits to Green Bay and greatly respected his work in support of organ donation through the John Brockington Foundation. He leaves a wonderful legacy. We extend our condolences to his wife, Diane, and his family and friends.”

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Rodgers moves into 3-shot lead at Valero Texas Open

Rodgers moves into 3-shot lead at Valero Texas Open

SAN ANTONIO — Patrick Rodgers took a step toward his first PGA Tour victory — and his first Masters appearance — on Friday, shooting a 5-under 67 to take a three-stroke lead midway through the second round of the weather-delayed Valero Texas Open.

Rodgers, who finished his opening-round 66 on Friday morning, birdied four of the final five holes in his second round at TPC San Antonio to post a 36-hole total of 11-under 133.

“It’s something I’ve always dreamt of,” said Rodgers, who’s making his 235th start on tour. “I’m excited for the chance. It’s going to be a really fun next couple of days.”

Corey Conners, the 2019 winner in San Antonio, was 8 under after a 72. Michael Thompson shot 68 and was another shot behind.

With the tournament in catch-up mode because of hours-long fog delays on Thursday morning, the afternoon half of the draw had no chance of finishing on Friday. Among the players on the course when darkness halted play, Roberto Diaz was 8 under with eight holes to play and Brendon Todd was 7 under with three holes left.

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Rodgers’ tee shot on the 198-yard 16th stopped inside 8 feet, and he had another birdie inside 10 feet at 17. He reached the 593-yard, par-5 18th in two for his closing birdie.

“I love to make the rounds feel pretty seamless and easy,” Rodgers said.

The 30-year-old Rodgers starred in college at Stanford but is winless since joining the PGA Tour in 2015.

Conners fell out of the lead with mistakes in the middle of his round. He four-putted his seventh hole, the par-3 16th, including three attempts within 4 feet. His tee shot on the 17th hooked into the brush, and he took an unplayable lie, leading to bogey.

“A little mindless,” Conners said. “That was an unfortunate blemish on the scorecard. Certainly would like to have that over. But that’s how it goes.”

Conners, winless since his Texas Open triumph four years ago, rebounded by shooting 2 under on his second nine, with birdies on both of the par 5s.

Conners is already in the field at Augusta National next week, but the final spot at the Masters awaits the winner in San Antonio if he’s not already eligible.

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Munoz has 62 for 2-shot lead over Bland in LIV Orlando event

Munoz has 62 for 2-shot lead over Bland in LIV Orlando event

ORLANDO, Fla. — Sebastian Munoz opened with an eagle and it only got better from there, leading the Colombian to a 9-under 62 and a two-shot lead Friday at LIV Golf-Orlando.

The groupings reflected a focus on the Masters for the LIV event that takes place the weekend ahead of the first major of the year. The six former Masters champions were in the opening two groups — Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson starting on No. 1, with Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Charl Schwartzel on No. 2.

Ultimately, it was a guy who won’t be going to Augusta National in the lead.

Munoz started with eagle on the par-5 14th hole at Orange County National, the Florida course that previously hosted the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament. He added six birdies over the next nine holes, and finished with two straight birdies.

“It wasn’t playing as easy as it felt,” Munoz said. “I was really good off the tee, and I was feeling my putter today. These greens are tough to read. I was pretty happy.”

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Richard Bland, the 50-year-old from England, had a 64.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka, who also will be at the Masters next week, and Danny Lee were at 65. Lee won LIV Golf’s second event this year outside Tucson, Arizona.

Johnson played bogey-free but could only account for four birdies on a day of a few big numbers but ample low scoring. He had a 67 and was tied Reed, who had two bogeys, one of them on a par 5.

“After some poor drivers early I was able to settle down,” Reed said. “I felt like it was just an OK round. It felt like I left a lot out there.”

This is the second tournament for the Orlando area. The Arnold Palmer Invitational was held four weeks ago at Bay Hill.

In the team competition, the Koepka-led Smash team was at 14 under (three scores counted), one shot ahead of Torque, for whom Munoz plays.

Bernd Wiesberger was the only player in the 48-man field who didn’t make a birdie. He had 17 pars and a double bogey and shot 73.

The former Masters champions are among 18 players who are eligible for the Masters.

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