Iowa-South Carolina nationwide championship: All the things to learn about girls’s title recreation


CLEVELAND — An undefeated South Carolina squad will face off towards Iowa, the crew who defeated them in final yr’s Remaining 4 semifinal recreation, for nationwide title on Sunday afternoon at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

This season of girls’s faculty basketball had a handful of proficient groups with robust resumes heading into the NCAA match, however many nonetheless predicted that these two packages may find yourself battling for a trophy in April.

Iowa girls’s basketball, led by famous person Caitlin Clark, has offered out arenas and even soccer stadiums. South Carolina, led by legendary coach Daybreak Staley, can be searching for its third title in program historical past. The Gamecocks had been nationwide champions in 2022 and 2017.

Beneath we break down all the pieces it is advisable to know concerning the nationwide championship recreation, the important thing gamers and storylines it’s best to observe earlier than tip off at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday:

Raven Johnson’s redemption

When requested on Saturday if she had watched her crew’s loss final yr to Iowa to arrange, Staley introduced shortly and to the purpose that she had not and the main target is on this yr’s crew.

The identical can’t be stated for sophomore guard Raven Johnson, who agonized over final yr’s loss and stated she has watched that recreation over 100 instances. Main as much as the Remaining 4, she spoke about how final season’s ending was troublesome for her, particularly the viral second of Clark waving her off on protection. Johnson took to the health club, engaged on her shot as a result of she wished to be referred to as a menace on the court docket — that nobody may dare not contest her photographs.

“I’m positively trying ahead to this matchup,” Johnson stated. “I’d say I used to be trying ahead [to facing] them, but it surely occurred in the precise means. I’m prepared for the matchup — going from final yr, the sentiments we felt final yr. It occurred on the proper time in the precise means.”

Staley added that Johnson has been discovering herself on and off the court docket. She added that she was happy with the expansion of Johnson. Clark additionally had some kinda phrases for Johnson at media on Saturday.

“Raven has had an amazing yr not solely as the purpose guard of the crew, she has been a real chief,” Clark stated. “I actually admire what she is doing this yr…and that simply speaks to her work ethic, she obtained within the health club and she or he obtained higher and I like that.”

The depth of South Carolina

When you watch South Carolina play you may’t assist however discover the expertise, athleticism, peak and the variety of gamers they will depend on to make issues occur.

When requested how this yr’s crew compares to different South Carolina groups, junior guard Bree Corridor stated, “I believe we’re actually good. I don’t need to throw an excessive amount of shade (to different South Carolina groups), however I believe we’re actually, actually good and it is going to be the icing on the cake as soon as we deal with enterprise tomorrow.”

Sophomore ahead Ashlyn Watkins, who got here off the bench to report 20 rebounds within the recreation vs. NC State on Friday evening, agreed that the Gamecocks depth is a powerful asset to the crew’s total success.

“I believe what has impressed me most is our bench factors in comparison with different faculty groups. That actually shocked me as a result of I don’t actually take note of totally different scores. However how many individuals rating off our bench vs. different opponents, it’s been loopy numbers,” Watkins stated. “It means loads as a result of we all know that we will use that deep bench. We showcase all 11 which are proficient.”

Iowa fifth-year senior Gabbie Marshall, who the Hawkeyes usually look to for defensive stops up towards the opponent’s finest gamers, stated her task tomorrow is beginning senior guard Te-Hina Paopao, who shoots over 45 p.c from the sphere and from the three-point line. However even Marshall understands how the Gamecocks rotate by way of their bench and the problem that may pose.

“There are solely going to be 5 folks on the court docket at a time,” Marshall stated. “Realizing these folks effectively and their tendencies (can be essential).”

What Iowa expects of South Carolina

Regardless of Iowa beating South Carolina through the crew’s final assembly, each groups are totally different and extra skilled than a yr in the past.

“I do know this South Carolina crew poses a completely totally different problem,” Clark stated. “The best way their guards shoot the ball is unbelievable and provides an entire different dynamic for us to be ready for.”

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder additionally spoke concerning the problem this Gamecocks crew can be.

“This can be the very best girls’s basketball crew we’ve seen. I believe you could possibly say that. They’ve all of the elements,” she stated.

What South Carolina expects from Iowa

South Carolina is aware of and respects the expertise and game-changer talents Clark has.

“Her recreation is straightforward and but highly effective,” Staley stated. “How do you defend basic basketball with offense with basic protection? You may’t. She’s going to win each time. So that you’ve obtained to point out her totally different appears to ensure that her to not settle in and selecting you aside. However we additionally should play our aspect of the ball. We obtained to defend. We obtained to place some factors on the scoreboard.”

After a good first half vs. NC State within the semifinal recreation on Friday evening, South Carolina got here out of the locker room within the second half to have a monster third quarter, occurring a 16-5 scoring run. The Gamecocks have proved that they’ve the power to get out of robust conditions and finally come out victorious.

“Coach advised us we’re going to make errors,” Johnson stated. “It simply is dependent upon how we react to these errors. She advised us to only go in, play our recreation, play South Carolina basketball. Don’t get too excessive with the highs and too low with the lows.”

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Kamilla Cardoso vs. Hannah Stuelke

One of many vital matchups on this recreation can be down within the paint. Senior middle Kamilla Cardoso stands at 6’7 and can be dealing with off towards Iowa sophomore Hannah Stuelke who’s 6’2’’.

Stuelke has proved her means towards proficient put up locations within the final two NCAA match video games — going towards LSU’s Angel Reese and UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards. In Iowa’s recreation vs. UConn, Stuelke led the crew in scoring with 23 factors.

Staley stated on Saturday that this matchup is one her crew must win and credited the sophomore’s means to maneuver in transition.

“Clearly Cordoso is an incredible participant. She is 6’7. So she is tall as effectively,” Stuelke stated. “I believe it poses a giant problem for me, however staying bodily and boxing out are my most essential jobs as they’re in each single recreation.”

Don’t sleep on the opposite 4 Iowa gamers on the court docket

If we’ve got discovered something on this NCAA match, it’s that Iowa is a stable all-around crew that occurs to even have the very best participant within the nation on their roster. From defensive performs to others selecting up baskets, the Hawkeyes have proven you will should beat others on their crew in an effort to win.

“We don’t win all of the video games we’ve got this yr with out each single particular person on our roster. And clearly Caitlin goes to get all her credit score as a result of she deserves it and she or he is an incredible participant however we don’t win all our video games with out [the others],” stated veteran participant Kate Martin. “[People] may suppose it’s a one particular person present however we all know it’s not and Caitlin is aware of it’s not.”

Undefeated groups in girls’s match historical past

Solely 10 groups have entered the postseason with an unbeaten report within the historical past of the ladies’s match. 9 groups all got here out winners, aside from Notre Dame, who misplaced to fellow undefeated UConn in 2004.

It could be a reasonably superb end to a season for South Carolina to by no means have dropped a recreation and chopping down the nets ultimately.

“It’s actually laborious to imagine that we’re undefeated as a result of I don’t really feel it. As a training employees, we’ve got to pinch ourselves to even know that’s true as a result of deep down we see what our shortcomings are each single day,” Staley stated.

Regardless of what Staley says, many coaches all through the match have talked concerning the expertise on their crew. South Carolina is a 6.5-point favourite over Iowa in Sunday’s nationwide championship recreation and after 40 minutes of play, we could have a brand new champion.