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Seattle aftermath for Iowa women’s basketball: A long flight delay, but the Final Four reality hasn’t soaked in yet
Hawkeyes take aim at No. 1 South Carolina in a national semifinal at 8:30 Friday night
DALLAS — Eventually, reality will hit.
That day was not Tuesday.
“I still don't know if it still has” sunk in that Iowa is going to the NCAA women’s basketball championship weekend, Coach Lisa Bluder said.
“I did walk to the arena today and kind of looked around the outside of the arena this morning. When we walked back to the hotel and saw it all Hawked up with the Tigerhawk, it was pretty cool.”
For the first time in 30 years, the Hawkeyes have reached the biggest stage.
Third-ranked Iowa (30-6) takes aim at No. 1 South Carolina (36-0) in a national semifinal Friday. Tipoff figures to be around 8:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center.
⧉ Related article: This time, America is paying full attention to Iowa in women’s Final Four
The Gamecocks carry a 42-game winning streak and are favored by 11 1/2 points.
In the other semifinal, No. 4 Virginia Tech (31-4) faces No. 9 LSU (32-2) at 6 p.m.
The winners play for the national championship at 2:30 Sunday afternoon.
Iowa advanced with a 97-83 win over Louisville in the regional finals Sunday night behind the 41-point, 10-rebound, 12-assist beauty from Caitlin Clark. The Hawkeyes flew from Seattle to Dallas on Monday.
“We sat on a plane for a long time,” Bluder said. “We had some travel issues a little bit. It's things that can't be helped. It kept getting delayed and delayed. We didn't get here till 10:30 (Monday) night I think.”
The Hawkeyes will contend with a front line that includes 2022 national player of the year Aliyah Boston (6-foot-5) and Kamilla Cardoso (6-7).
“They're an amazing offensive rebounding team,” Bluder said. “Somebody kind of just described it to me as you're going to a bar fight when you try to go rebound against them, they're just so good.
“How do we deal with their height? We can't really handle it one on one, in my opinion. We have to have help from other people and do our best that we can to get a body on them, just be able to get over-the-back calls if we can get some. Try to hit more 3s than they can hit 2s.”
The defending champion Gamecocks have been No. 1 all season.
“The pressures that come with being the No. 1 team, being the No. 1 overall seed ... you don't think it impacts you, but it does,” South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley said.
“It's not the driving force, though. It's not the very thing that I say I feel this pressure... I don't feel it in that way. I feel it in that I don't want to let whoever's looking at us in a way that lends hope to them.”
NCAA women’s basketball: Final Four capsules
Coach: Dawn Staley (15th year at South Carolina, 402-105; 23rd year overall, 574-185)
Final AP ranking: No. 1
Conference: 16-0 SEC (1st), tournament champion
How the Gamecocks got here: Beat Norfolk State, 72-40; beat South Florida, 76-45; beat UCLA, 59-43; beat Maryland, 86-75.
Leading scorers: Zia Cooke (5-9, sr.), 15.1 ppg, Aliyah Boston (6-5, sr.), 13.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg; Kamilla Cardoso (6-7, jr.), 9.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg
Scoring averages: Offense 80.5, defense 51.1
Final Four history: 5th appearance. NCAA champions in 2017 and 2022.
Series with Iowa: South Carolina leads, 1-0.
Coach: Lisa Bluder (39th year, 849-390; 23rd year at Iowa, 493-248)
Final AP ranking: No. 3
Conference: 15-3 Big Ten (T-2nd); tournament champion
How the Hawkeyes got here: Beat Southeastern Louisiana, 95-43; beat Georgia, 74-66; beat Colorado, 87-77, beat Louisville, 97-83.
Leading scorers: Caitlin Clark (6-0, jr.), 27.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.6 apg; Monika Czinano (6-3, sr.), 17.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, .679 FG%; McKenna Warnock (6-1, sr.), 11.1 ppg
Scoring averages: Offense 87.6, defense 70.9
Final Four history: 2nd appearance, first since 1993, when the Hawkeye lost in the semifinals to Ohio State.
Coach: Kim Mulkey (2nd year at LSU, 58-8; 23rd year overall, 690–112)
Final AP ranking: No. 9
Conference: 15-1 SEC (2nd), tournament semifinalist
How the Tigers got here: Beat Hawaii, 73-50; beat Michigan, 66-42; beat Utah, 66-3; beat Miami (Fla.), 54-42.
Leading scorers: Angel Reese (6-3, soph.), 23.2 ppg, 15.7 rpg; Alexis Morris (5-6, sr.), 14.9 ppg, 4.1 apg; Flau’jae Johnson (5-10, fr.), 11.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Scoring averages: Offense 81.8, defense 56.7
Final Four history: 6th appearance. Advanced five straight years between 2004 and 2008.
Series with Iowa: Iowa leads, 2-1.
Coach: Kenny Brooks (7th year at Virginia Tech, 186-77; 21st year overall, 523-199)
Final AP ranking: No. 4
Conference: 14-4 ACC (2nd), tournament champion
How the Hokies got here: Beat Chattanooga, 58-33; beat South Dakota State, 72-60; beat Tennessee, 73-64; beat Ohio State, 84-74.
Leading scorers: Elizabeth Kitley (6-6, sr.), 18.2 ppg, 10.7 rpg; Georgia Amoore (5-6, jr.), 16.3 ppg, 5.0 apg; Taylor Soule (5-11, sr.), 11.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg
Scoring averages: Offense 72.4, defense 57.1
Final Four history: 1st appearance.
Series with Iowa: Iowa leads, 2-1.