CLEVELAND -- Caitlin Clark's remarkable college basketball career will continue to the women's NCAA championship game for a second consecutive year after the Iowa Hawkeyes defeated the UConn Huskies 71-69 in the Final Four on Friday night at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Clark scored 21 points to go along with nine rebounds and seven assists. Iowa will face No. 1 overall seed South Carolina for the title on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC). The Gamecocks (37-0) beat NC State 78-59 in Friday's first semifinal.

"I'm just really grateful. I used every single second of my college career over the course of the last two years," Clark said of going to back-to-back title games. "To be able to go out on top would be super special, but we're going to have our hands full. South Carolina has been the best all year and has kind of been at a different level than anybody else."

Sophomore post player Hannah Stuelke led the Hawkeyes (34-4) in scoring with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. It was only the second time this season that Clark did not lead Iowa in scoring; in both games, it was Stuelke who stepped up. Stuelke had a career-high 47 points on Feb. 8 against Penn State, but given how high the stakes were Friday, this was likely the best game of her career. She earned high praise from Clark.

"Confidence is everything," Stuelke said. "Especially hearing Caitlin Clark talk about me like that, it gives me a confidence boost. I think anyone would say that. But they just fed me the ball very well. And the ball was going in for me tonight."

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Iowa coach Lisa Bluder added of Stuelke, "I'm just so pleased with her growth tonight. She just took, as a sophomore ... another big leap tonight." Senior guard Kate Martin contributed 11 points and eight rebounds as Iowa won the rebounding battle 37-29. Hawkeyes guard Gabbie Marshall drew a key late offensive foul against Aaliyah Edwards with 3.9 seconds left that helped seal the victory.


Clark's signature 3-point shooting was off in the first half as she was 0-for-6 from long range and Iowa trailed 32-26 at halftime with the star limited to six points on 3-of-11 shooting overall.

But Iowa's offense was much better in the second half as the Hawkeyes had 25 points in the third quarter and sent the game to the final period tied 51-51. In the fourth quarter, Iowa outscored UConn 20-18.

Even though Iowa leads Division I in scoring this season at 91.4 points per game, defense has been a key in all five of the Hawkeyes' NCAA tournament wins. That was evident Friday as the Hawkeyes were able to win despite scoring 20 points below their average. It was fitting that Marshall, the team's defensive specialist, made such a huge play in the final seconds.


UConn was attempting to advance to its 13th NCAA final; the Huskies have won 11 titles. Their last trip to the NCAA championship game was in 2022, when they fell to South Carolina.

UConn guard Paige Bueckers, who came into college in the same class as Clark but missed last season with a knee injury, will return next season in pursuit of her first national championship. Bueckers and Edwards, who is headed to the WNBA draft, led UConn with 17 points each Friday.

The one thing left for Clark to accomplish at Iowa is winning the NCAA title. But an undefeated team stands in the way.


"South Carolina has been the top of the top," Clark said. "We're going to do everything we can to try to be right there with them. I think the biggest thing is enjoy this tonight and we'll go over the scout early in the morning."

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