Iowa's Caitlin Clark Speaks On Backlash LSU's Angel Reese Has Received Over Hand Gesture
DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 02: Angel Reese #10 of the LSU Lady Tigers reacts in front of Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes towards the end of the 2023 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament championship game at American Airlines Center on April 02, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Elite Eight Last Night Has Shown The Progression of Women’s Basketball

The Elite Eight matchups last night were nothing short of spectacular for women’s basketball, featuring five standout players at the forefront of the game, capturing the attention of American sports viewers on Monday night.

The LSU duo of Angel Reese and rapper/hooper Flaujae Johnson took on Iowa’s Caitlin Clark in a highly anticipated rematch of last year’s National Championship. The evening’s second game spotlighted USC’s freshman sensation JuJu Watkins as she went head-to-head with one of the most complete players in the country, UCONN’s Paige Bueckers.

In Albany, New York, last night, the most awaited women’s basketball matchup in the sport’s history unfolded as LSU and Iowa clashed in the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Tigers emerged victorious with a 102-85 win, despite Iowa’s sharpshooter Clark delivering an impressive performance with 30 points, eight assists, and two rebounds. However, LSU’s depth and scoring prowess proved overwhelming for Clark’s supporting cast.

Kim Mulkey, reflecting on the night’s events, echoed the sentiment that Clark was an imposing force from the start against the Lady Tigers.

“She’s just a generational player, and she just makes everybody around her better,” Coach Mulkey told the media postgame. “That’s what the great ones do.”

Clark finished the game with 41 points and nine assists, hitting nine three-pointers and breaking a viewership record of 9.9 million for a women’s basketball game. Reese was fouled out on a questionable call towards the end, while her team was already trailing by eight with less than two minutes remaining. Despite this, she delivered a dominating performance with 17 points and 20 rebounds.

The standout of the night was Flau’jae Johnson, who led the team with 23 points and six rebounds. Postgame, she made it clear how much work she and Reese had put in and spoke highly of Angel Reese, one of her closest friends, highlighting the kind of person she is.

“Everybody is entitled to their opinion on Angel Reese, but they don’t truly know her,” Johnson told the media. “I do. I know the real Angel Reese, and the person I encounter daily is incredibly strong. She’s caring, loving. The crown she wears is indeed heavy.”

Johnson felt compelled to speak out, not because she had to, but because she wanted to highlight what Reese has meant to this program and the sport over the last year and a half. The importance of mental health for athletes cannot be overstated, and Reese didn’t choose to excel at basketball only to face unwarranted ridicule and scrutiny.

She shared her feelings of unhappiness since winning a championship, emphasizing that no one deserves to endure such a sentiment throughout their season. Having received death threats, Reese wanted to remind everyone that she is, after all, human.

This game divided America, with some supporting the babyface, Clark, the underdog who struggled to get over the hump against the Lady Tigers.

Not only did LSU win last year, but they also became richer when they acquired combo guard Hailey Van Lith from Louisville last summer. However, last night, Hailey couldn’t keep up with Clark, who made her pay for it. Social media was abuzz, questioning why Mulkey’s in-game adjustments were lacking.

Clark’s media attention has been significant, leading her team to a 32-4 record. She broke the NCAA scoring record, became the Big Ten career leader in triple-doubles, was named Big Ten Player of the Year, and achieved the most 30-point games by any man or woman in Division I in the past 25 years.

The matchup was a legacy game for Clark, offering her the chance to avenge last year’s loss to her arch-rival and advance to the Final Four in Cleveland. Both Clark and Reese, painted as rivals, have emphasized that their competition is friendly, with no ill will between them. Their rivalry has significantly contributed to the growth of the sport.

The second match lacked the drama of the first, but for real basketball fans, it was the one to watch. The UConn Huskies, arguably the most dominant women’s program of the 21st century, are led by Head Coach Geno Auriemma, a key figure in college basketball with 27 tournament championships, nine-time Associated Press Coach of the Year titles, and 11 NCAA Championships.

UConn is now 15-0 in their last fifteen Elite Eight matchups, a staggering statistic. Bueckers did not disappoint, outshining freshman sensation JuJu Watkins of USC.

Watkins was outstanding, overcoming a poor shooting night to achieve a double-double, finishing with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists.

UConn Guard Paige Bueckers is pursuing the one achievement that has eluded her: winning a National Championship. Despite leading her team to the Final Four in her freshman and sophomore years, back-to-back knee injuries had put Bueckers under the radar as the women’s game reached new heights. She came back even stronger, and last night, she reminded everyone why some consider her one of the most complete players in the country, a sentiment echoed by South Carolina’s Head Coach Dawn Staley.

“Paige was good when she was injured,” Stayley told the media a few weeks ago. “She was good in the National Championship Game(2022). I love Paige’s game. For me, I would like for her to take more shots if I’m Geno(Auriemma) because she doesn’t take bad shots. She’s got great court vision, she’s got great court awareness. Paige is going to be an Olympian at some point soon.”

High praise from a former Olympian indeed, but make no mistake, USC’s JuJu Watkins was prepared and ready for UConn. She is the next face of women’s basketball, having broken the freshman scoring record during last night’s Elite Eight matchup. As a Los Angeles native who chose to stay home and lead the Lady Trojans back to prominence, she has not disappointed since stepping onto campus.

Winning National Freshman of the Year, earning First Team All-American honors, making the All-Pac-12 team, the All-Pac-12 Defensive team, and being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Scoring 51 points in a single game this season, she placed second in conference history for points in a game. She is here to stay and will be an even better player next year.

Now that the Final Four is set, will we see Paige vs. Kaitlyn on Friday? Man, oh man, a UConn team that can defend and has a size advantage over this Iowa team, which doesn’t have the same roster as last year that might have matched up better with the Lady Huskies. However, check out below how all four ladies, including Flau’Jae, showed out last night. These games did not disappoint at all.

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