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LSU and Iowa prepare for championship rematch in Elite Eight: ‘A really great game for women’s basketball’

ALBANY, N.Y. —  The first game of the Elite Eight will be a rematch of the 2023 NCAA championship game between the LSU Tigers and the Iowa Hawkeyes. 

Last year, the two programs drew in 9.9 million viewers as the Tigers rolled to a 102-85 win over the Hawkeyes to claim their first championship in program history. Superstars Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark battled on the court in what was the most-watched NCAA women’s championship. 

This year, LSU and Iowa are likely to draw record viewership again, though only one will have a chance to continue on to the Final Four in hopes of returning to the title game. 

CBS Sports headed to the LSU and Iowa locker rooms to gauge how the players were feeling about their latest performance. Both locker rooms gave off an aura of accomplishment, and perhaps the smallest sigh of relief. Here’s what they said:

Iowa isn’t dwelling on the past

Despite the familiarity with their opponent, Iowa is focused on the current Tigers, not last year’s championship opponent. 

“I think overall it’s just going to be a really great game for women’s basketball,” Caitlin Clark said postgame. “They’re really solid one through five. We know we are going to have to rebound the basketball.

“But more than anything I think just building off this win today, I think this was the first time in about three games we were able to put together what felt like a complete basketball game on both ends of the floor.”

Iowa has the best offensive team in the country, and Clark is a key part of the Hawkeyes scoring. Still, she’s not the only weapon. As the season has gone on, Iowa has done a better job of getting more players involved. 

On Saturday, all five of Iowa’s starters scored in the double digits. Clark recorded a game-leading 29 points and 15 assists in the 89-68 win over Colorado. Sydney Affolter was a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor while Gabbie Marshall went 4-for-5 from the 3-point line.  

“I was really proud of her for how she shot and when she’s shooting like that,” Kate Martin said. “It is just so fun to play with. It’s hard to guard and it makes us hard to beat.”

Iowa’s ability to shoot from distance forces teams to decide if or how much they want to throw numbers at Clark. Even in a zone defense, Iowa can connect from deep. 

Meanwhile, LSU earned their win over UCLA in part because the Bruins were 7 for 32 on 3-pointers. It would be unwise to give Iowa that many looks from the 3-point arc. 

LSU focused on defense

LSU and UCLA were tied at 67 with 1:46 remaining in fourth quarter. Down the stretch, UCLA missed nine attempts, including three free throws and LSU pulled away for the win. Flau’Jae Johnson scored 24 points and 12 rebounds in the win.

“It was a good feeling,” guard Mikaylah Williams told CBS Sports. “We’ve had a long season. We’ve had so many hardships and we’ve faced so much adversity that it feels good to finally be on top.”

Williams tallied 12 points and three rebounds in the win. While pleased with the team win, she expects more efficient rebounding from herself and her teammates. 

“We definitely need to rebound better, especially down the stretch,” she added. “I also think we need to make stops — or personally myself — I need to make stops and not be the weakest link on the floor,” the freshman guard said. “But that’s okay, I’m gonna pick it up for the next game.”

At their best, the Tigers are a strong rebounding team with the ability to use their speed to break down defenses in transition and off the dribble. They are also a proud team. On LSU game days, players can be seen hyping each other up or interacting with the fans.

“We have very dedicated fans and they’re super loud,” guard Hailey Van Lith said. “We want to use that to our advantage. Anytime we can get the crowd hyped for us — loud, making noise, when they’re trying to call plays. And we’re a team that feeds off that type of energy. We’re a hype team.”

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