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Like much of America, Kim Mulkey has her eyes squarely on Caitlin Clark
‘I couldn’t take my eyes off of her,’ the LSU coach said. ‘Gosh, she’s special. She’s special.’
DALLAS — As Caitlin Clark darted and dashed on the temporary hardwood at American Airlines Center, Kim Mulkey’s eyes followed.
“(Friday), that was my first time to see (Clark) play in person,” said Mulkey, who won three national women’s basketball championships at Baylor, and has LSU on the brink of a title of its own.
“I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Gosh, she’s special. She’s special.”
Clark, who has captivated audiences from coast to coast (College Park, Md., to Seattle), plus millions on television, will make her final, climactic appearance of the season Sunday: No. 3 Iowa (31-6) faces No. 9 LSU (33-2) in the championship game of the NCAA tournament.
Tipoff is 2:30 p.m., and will be televised on ABC.
“It's going to take me some time, a few weeks to reflect on everything that’s happened,” Clark said Saturday. “More than anything, I’m grateful, and I want to end it with a championship.”
The national player of the year according to all that have awarded it, Clark is in the process of rewriting a good share of the record books — Iowa, Big Ten and NCAA.
She scored 41 points in a regional-final triple-double against Louisville, then ripped off 41 more in the Hawkeyes’ dramatic national-semifinal upset over No. 1 South Carolina.
As Mulkey said, Clark is special.
“I've never seen a player — I don't like to use the word ‘never,’ but I don't know that I've ever seen a player that can do what Caitlin does,” Mulkey said.
“She's going to get her points. That girl is phenomenal shooting the ball. But the most impressive thing to me, now that you're talking to an old point guard, is she makes everybody around her better.”
Before transferring to LSU last summer, Angel Reese faced Clark for two years at Maryland.
“I know what Caitlin brings to the table for sure,” said Reese, who joined Clark on the Associated Press All-America first team.
“And (Monika) Czinano ... she’s very efficient around the basket. I mean, she doesn't miss pretty often. Caitlin gets her the ball when she needs to get the ball. She's really great. Her hands are great. She has great footwork.
“We just want to make sure that their third and fourth players don't go off and get 20 points, that's going to be the difference.”
Reese is a stat-stuffer in her own right, averaging 23.2 points and 15.7 rebounds per game.
“A fabulous basketball player,” Bluder called her.
With Clark, the Hawkeyes have somewhat of a Beatles vibe, both at home and abroad.
“People love this team,” Clark said. “I truly don't think we would be here if it wasn’t for our fans, the way they’ve traveled at home, at the Big Ten tournament, out in Seattle, but now here.
“They’re not just here to scream because we're here. They’re here because they understand the game and how great we play it.”
So here we go. It’s Iowa and LSU for a national title.
⧉ Related article: The finish line has arrived: Iowa vs. LSU, for the NCAA women’s basketball championship
Clark is weary, bruised. And undeterred.
“It’s really easy to wake up for a national championship,” she said. “Being tired is not going to be an issue with me. Having bruises is not going to be an issue. Being sore is not going to be an issue for anybody on our team.
“Something I always talk about with our sports psychologist is to visualize greatness. See yourself hitting game-winning shots. See yourself hoisting a trophy because why can't that be you? Because it can.”