NCAA LSU Iowa Basketball

LSU head coach Kim Mulkey reacts during the first quarter of an Elite Eight round college basketball game against Iowa during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

ALBANY, N.Y.?—?The answers Kim Mulkey sought were somewhere on the piece of paper she carried out of the LSU locker room. To dig them up, she grabbed a yellow highlighter, slid on a pair of reading glasses and glued her eyes to the box score printed on the paper.

Then, she walked to her postgame news conference.

“I look at this stat sheet,” Mulkey said, as she glanced down, picked up the paper and showed it to the camera, “and I just put a lot of little notes down there, and I'll file it away and think about it when the emotion of the loss goes away.”

LSU lost 94-87 to Iowa?on Monday in the Elite Eight largely because it had no answer for Caitlin Clark, who tallied 41 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds.

The Tigers grabbed 18 more rebounds than Iowa and attempted 19 more field goals. Ordinarily, those advantages translate to LSU wins. But they didn’t against Iowa, when LSU converted only 22 of 43 layups and turned its 23 second-chance opportunities into just 14 points.

On her box score, Mulkey highlighted Clark’s points and assists, along with LSU’s third-quarter field goal percentage (19%), its offensive rebounds (23) and the points each team scored in the third quarter, when the Tigers let their season slip away.

“We shot the ball almost 20 times more than they did,” Mulkey said. “So, that's the pace I'm talking about.”

In the third quarter, Clark hit four 3-pointers and dished out three assists. LSU shot only 5 of 26 from the field, misfired on all five of its 3-point tries and as a result, fell into an 11-point hole, which was too large of a deficit to overcome against a Hawkeyes team that made 44% of its third-quarter 3-pointers.

“Yeah, that's pretty much it,” LSU guard Flau’jae Johnson said. “They outscored us in the third quarter. I think that was just experience, turnovers, like you said. I'll take that on the chin. I feel like I've got to be better just communicating with my team better, getting us into the offense better. I've got to be better.”

Clark hit each of her third-quarter 3s from well beyond the 3-point arc, and she packed all four of them into the first five minutes of the frame.

Hailey Van Lith tried to contest the first two, but Clark’s release — which she loaded each time with a little hop to the left — was too quick.

Her next two victimized Last-Tear Poa and Angel Reese. From the left wing, Clark floated left away from Poa, then fired, knocking in her third 3. Then, she curled around a pin-down screen, caught a pass, faked a drive through the lane and jabbed her feet back behind the arc at the top of the key, where she swished her fourth. Reese’s contest was too late.

“I feel like this game, we slipped up,” LSU guard Mikaylah Williams said, “and we never got back on our feet. They're an experienced team, so they knew once we got down, they kind of stepped on our throats and kept it there.”

Clark wasn’t the only Hawkeye to hurt LSU. Kate Martin scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds after shooting 8 of 16 from the floor. Sydney Affolter hit two of the three 3-pointers she tried and finished with 16 points. Gabbie Marshall played all 40 minutes alongside Clark.

The box score from LSU’s national title game against Iowa reflected similar numbers. Four Hawkeyes, including Clark, scored in double figures. Overall, Iowa shot 50% from the field and 46% from 3-point range. It scored 85 points.

But the offensive stats that LSU posted Monday didn’t sniff the ones they posted last year, when the Tigers scored a record 102 points in the championship game. That night, they shot 54% from the field and sank 11 3-pointers.

“Then you look at that second and especially the third quarter where we just missed shots,” Mulkey said after she put the box score back down. “You'll dissect things like that. Yeah, I could probably tell you a bunch of things you'll dissect X's and O's-wise.”

Mulkey then balled up a fist, gritted her teeth and said maybe LSU could have been just a little tougher in the moment.

“I mean,” she said, “you can just sit and talk all day about the game.”

Those conversations must include Clark, who's prolific third-quarter shooting keyed the Iowa win that ended LSU’s season.

“What did I say to her?” Mulkey said. “I said, ‘I sure am glad you're leaving.’ I said, ‘Girl, you are something else.’ Never seen anything like it.”

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