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Iowa vs. South Carolina: ‘This feels like a moment’
Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes have been a key part of the soaring popularity of women’s college basketball
DALLAS — The media are supposed to ask the questions.
But in doing so, one sportswriter at the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four prefaced her query with the following statement:
“This feels like a moment.”
Nearly 2.5 million television viewers took in Iowa’s regional-final victory over Louisville on Sunday in Seattle, the most ever for a pre-Final Four game.
And when the third-ranked, Caitlin Clark-led Hawkeyes face No. 1, undefeated, defending-champion South Carolina Friday night? It could be the most-watched women’s game in history.
“It's really exciting,” South Carolina All-American post Aliyah Boston said. “Everybody has been talking about this matchup for a really long time. It's exciting that it's happening in the Final Four.
“I think it's just a great game for women's basketball. I know there's going to be a lot of people in the crowd, a lot of people watching the game. Just super excited to be in that environment.”
It’s a hot ticket, too.
According to a story by the Associated Press, an all-session ticket for the women’s Final Four was at least $475 on StubHub and $335 on Vivid Seats, before fees, as of 2 p.m. Thursday. Men’s Final Four all-season tickets were going for at least $65.
“I think it's pretty incredible. I think it's starting to get the viewership, the attention that it deserves,” said Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, the 2023 consensus women’s basketball player of the year and the undisputed face of the sport.
“When people really turn on the TV or sit in the seat, they understand how good the product is, and how much fun it is to watch.”
Tipoff for the Hawkeyes (30-6) and the Gamecocks (36-0) in Friday night’s national semifinal is 8:30 (ESPN). In the first game, at 6 p.m., No. 4 Virginia Tech (31-4) squares off with No. 9 LSU (32-2).
The championship game is 2:30 p.m. Sunday (ABC).
This atmosphere shouldn’t be a tremendous shock for the Hawkeyes or the Gamecocks.
Iowa’s average home attendance this season was 11,143, and 15 of its last 16 games — home, road or neutral court — have been played in front of crowds of at last 8,500.
Fans showed up in droves to support the Hawkeyes in Seattle, and are expected to do the same Friday in Dallas.
“It definitely shows how the game is growing and how high of a demand there is for people to want to get in the door of this game,” Clark said. “A lot of people are going to turn it on on TV too if they can't make it down to Dallas. I think we're just grateful more than anything.”
South Carolina’s average home attendance is 12,942.
“You can always think about people making negative comments about women's basketball, women's sports in general, but (all of this is) proof that the numbers are going up,” Boston said. “Everyone is excited to watch the women's game. Everyone is buying their tickets to travel to watch their favorite players, watch their favorite team.
“So you can't really deny that people are interested in watching women's sports. It's just really exciting to be part of the generation that's continuing to help it grow.”