Iowa’s Caitlin Clark delivers a performance for the ages

It looked like the March Madness we know and crave. The upsets are certainly fantastic, and Iowa’s win over South Carolina was an upset, but only because of the Gamecocks’ perfect 36-0 record and 42-game winning streak overall. This was not David defeating Goliath. LeBron James took Zydrunas Ilgauskas and company to the Finals only if Cleveland beat San Antonio instead of Detroit to get there.

Caitlin Clark is not to be messed with, but she’s no outsider either. Sometimes the team with the highest alpha wins, and Clark was the main predator on Friday night. The Hawkeyes have some work left to do (LSU will present many of the same problems that South Carolina did), but I needed an analogy with the right level of hyperbole, and I don’t think I’m wrong with the Clark-LeBron comparison (performance-wise) or the similarities between South Carolina and San Antonio.

Clark finished with 41 points, eight assists and six steals. It was her second straight 40-plus game, and she scored or assisted on every field goal in the fourth quarter, and about 75 percent of her team’s total shots. The player of the year has been compared to Diana Taurasi, and that’s a perfectly fitting comparison. However, Taurasi was the leader of a juggernaut like South Carolina at UConn and never had to do (at least collegiately) what he demands of Clark.

This Iowa team isn’t even a single seed, and as good as Clark’s supporting cast was, no one recorded more than eight shots. You can’t blame them though because the only player capable of holding her own against the formidable Gamecock defense was the best player in the damn game.

South Carolina didn’t play bad, they just got beat

Iowa definitely got some help from the zebras, who weren’t exactly happy about the whistle but he still hit Aliyah Boston with two quick fouls that led to significant bench time in the first half. Clark also committed a few early fouls, but coach Lisa Bluder stuck with her star and was rewarded with smart, selective defense and one point advantage at the break.

Dawn Staley didn’t have to gamble with her top option, and the rest worked out for Boston as SC outscored the Hawkeyes, 24-16, in the second quarter with help from Zia Cooke and a relentless attack on the offensive glass. The Gamecock front line was Iowa’s big sister on the glass all night, resulting in a 49-25 rebounding advantage. The only issue with Staley on Friday was his lack of adjustments regarding some perimeter players Iowa was begging him to shoot. To be fair, I’m not sure what she was supposed to do other than stick with the ladies who brought her there. I’m just saying that Clark was sometimes 10 to 15 feet away from the shooters and you can’t let herjust save your energy for the offensive end. Regardless, 4-of- in South Carolina20 outing from deep wasn’t much worse than Iowa’s 7-of-23.

It was just one of those games against one of those players that wasn’t meant to be, and it happened at the worst possible time on the biggest possible stage with a bunch of crap in the game. This loss will sting as long as the night is remembered for Clark’s heroics, and it will hurt even more if Iowa doesn’t get the job done.

Kim Mulkey’s closet and Bayou Barbie are the perfect motivations for Iowa’s crazy run through this tournament, and I don’t want to hear a fucking word about the quality of this March Madness. If you’re disappointed, you’ve been watching wrong tournament.

The main attraction is Caitlin Clark, and hopefully, another brilliant performance remained in it.

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