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LSU 102, Iowa 85: The Ref Show

Iowa went on an incredible run, but came up short in the national championship game.
Iowa went on an incredible run, but came up short in the national championship game. (IowaWBB/Twitter)

Not every magical run has a happy ending.

Iowa's torrid run through the postseason ended in tears on Sunday, as Iowa fell to LSU, 102-85, in the National Championship Game in Dallas, Texas. The magic that carried Iowa this far in the postseason ran out against a talented opponent that simply refused to miss shots for large portions of the game.



The game started perfectly for Iowa. Monika Czinano got a quick look inside on Iowa’s first possession. Kate Martin then got a steal and score after a Czinano missed shot, and Caitlin Clark nailed a long three-pointer on Iowa’s next possession, forcing LSU to call timeout. LSU did make a three-pointer in that stretch, but Iowa still led 7-3 early.

After the timeout, LSU got going on both ends. The Tigers got a few stops, forced a pair of turnovers, and scored baskets in transition or at the rim. The Tigers took their first lead at 10-9 and led 15-12 at the under-five timeout.

After a back-and-forth stretch highlighted by Clark making a pair of threes to tie the game at 18-all, Czinano was whistled for her second foul with 3:28 to play in the first. She headed to the bench, which proved to be a harbinger of things to come -- on both ends.

Any flow in the game was lost at this point to a series of rapid-fire whistles. Both teams were called for debatable-at-best fouls, off of contact that is usually commonplace — especially in a championship game. LSU's stars weren't exempt from the referees' wrath either; Angel Reese picked up her second foul with 52.4 seconds left in the quarter. Despite that, LSU led after the first, 27-22. Clark already had 14 points, going 4-5 from deep in the opening stanza and seemingly setting the stage for an all-time performance.

The second quarter saw Iowa quickly retake the lead at 30-29, with Kate Martin and Gabbie Marshall each making a three-pointer to reignite the Hawkeye fans in attendance.

Unfortunately, that would be the last point where Iowa was even close to the lead.

LSU responded with a backbreaking 20-6 run, with 11 of those points coming from reserve guard Jasmine Carson, who had been held scoreless in LSU's three previous tournament games and averaged 8.4 points per game over the course of the season.

Worse, in the midst of that game-changing run, Clark picked up her second and third foul of the game -- both offensive, as she tried to shed defenders who spent the game hounding her as soon as she crossed half-court. Clark headed to the bench, visibly frustrated, with 3:26 remaining in the half and Iowa trailing 49-38.

Without its primary scorer on the floor, Iowa was squarely in the danger zone at that point, and LSU kept the heat on to take a 59-42 lead into the break. If anything summed up LSU's offensive display in the opening 20 minutes, it was the final shot of the half, as Carson banked in a three at the buzzer to give her 21 points on 7-7 shooting (5-5 from deep) in the first half alone.

Thanks to Carson's eruption, LSU's bench outscored Iowa's reserves 29-2 in the first half.

LSU kept the onslaught on early after halftime, opening up a game-high 21-point lead at 63-42. Iowa badly needed a response, and finally got it.

The Hawkeyes got threes from Clark and Warnock, then an and-1 from Czinano to cut the LSU lead to 63-51. Three-pointers from Marshall and Clark added to a 15-2 run by Iowa that got the LSU lead down to 8 points, and once again the game felt competitive — albeit briefly.

The Hawkeyes pushed the lead back as low as 7 with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but another high-profile officiating decision turned the game substantially back in LSU's favor — both on the scoreboard and in how Iowa could manage the rest of the game.

With 1:04 left in the third quarter, Czinano was whistled for her fourth personal foul contesting a shot by Reese. During the dead ball after the foul, a frustrated Clark half-heartedly tossed the ball back under the basket — which resulted in a technical foul, which also doubled as her fourth personal foul. Just like that, Iowa's dynamic duo was each one whistle away from disqualification.

LSU hit two of the four ensuing free throws and led 75-64, which the Tigers carried into the fourth quarter.

Iowa would cut the lead back to 77-69, but that was the last real push the Hawkeyes could muster. A quick LSU 6-0 run returned the lead to 14 points, and by then the outcome would no longer be in doubt.

LSU eventually won 102-85 to claim the 2023 National Championship.


Clark led Iowa with 30 points and 8 assists. Her shooting numbers don't look the best (9/22 from the field, 8/19 from 3-point range), but they include some desperate shots she attempted as the game slipped out of reach.

Czinano had 13 points and 6 rebounds, but was just 5-11 from the floor. She missed a few difficult shots early in the game, and was never able to get into a rhythm later due to foul trouble — eventually fouling out after just 20 minutes on the floor in her last game as a Hawkeye.

Martin and Marshall both scored in double figures as well, with 13 and 12 points respectively.

A box score for the game is here.


Officiating aside: LSU deserves plenty of credit for its victory.

Reese finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists, her NCAA-record 34th double-double of the season. Reese also had three steals against no turnovers, and the performance propelled her to the Most Outstanding Player Award for the Final Four.

Carson only scored one point after halftime, but it was still enough to lead the Tigers with 22 points. LSU's other star player, guard Alexis Morris, picked up Carson's production with 19 second-half points; she finished with 21 points and 9 assists. LaDazhia Williams finished with 20 points, and freshman Flau'jae Johnson added 10 points of her own.

The Tigers were unconscious from three-point range in the first half, making 9-12 attempts from behind the arc (including 6-7 in the second quarter). They were just 2-5 from distance in the second half, but they hit big shot after big shot inside the arc each time Iowa looked like it might get back in the game.

LSU was simply a fireball offensively in this game -- the Tigers shot 11-17 from behind the arc, but they also outscored Iowa in the paint, 34-24. They used a 37-26 edge in rebounding (14-7 in offensive boards) to earn a 14-9 edge in second chance points. They also outscored Iowa 26-19 in points off turnovers.

Congrats to the Tigers for a great season and a championship game well played.


All of those Tweets are from national media that have no association with Iowa. I’ve never seen such high-profile criticism of the officiating like that before, on a stage like this one.

Thanks to the steady flow of whistles, Czinano and Warnock spent most of the second quarter on the bench, and that severely limited Iowa’s offensive options. That said, LSU also dealt with notable foul trouble early -- Angel Reese picked up two fouls in the first quarter and set for the entire second quarter -- but the Tigers' bench stepped up in a big way to fill that void in a way that Iowa's simply didn't.

In the third quarter, Iowa's impressive run hit a wall with the tandem calls on Czinano and Clark that put them both at four personals — and gave LSU four shots and possession. Luckily, the Tigers only got two points out of the sequence, but it was deflating enough to Iowa's momentum that the Hawkeyes' next (and ultimately last) push only got the deficit back to 8.

Additionally, the foul trouble also forced Iowa’s best players to play tentatively on defense the rest of the game to avoid fouling out. At that point, Iowa had no real chance of completing a miracle comeback. The Hawkeyes just weren’t going to get stops against an LSU team firing on all cylinders without the luxury of being able to gamble on defense.


The ref show in the championship game does make for an unsatisfying and heartbreaking end to the season. But none of that takes away from the incredible run that Iowa was able to put together this season, and over the last few weeks in particular.

Many doubted Iowa's chances to make the Final Four. Instead the Hawks did even better than that, not just making the Final Four, but knocking off undefeated #1 South Carolina and playing in the National Championship Game for the first time ever.

This Iowa team accomplished things that simply no other Iowa team has ever done before, under a spotlight that only grew bigger and brighter as the season progressed. For that, the Hawkeyes deserve credit and support from the fans, both in gratitude for this season and in optimism for what'll come next.

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