LSU players speak to impact of rivalry with Iowa

On3 imageby:Chandler Vessels04/02/24

ChandlerVessels

The past two seasons have seen major growth for women’s college basketball, and Iowa and LSU have been at the center of it all. The Tigers and Hawkeyes met last season for the national championship that pitted stars Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark against each other and drew tons of attention.

The two teams faced each other again Monday in the Elite Eight with Iowa getting its revenge after losing in 2023 with a 94-87 win. The game shattered the record set in last year’s title game as 12.3 million viewers tuned in to set a new record for the most-watched women’s college basketball game of all-time.

Speaking postgame, Reese addressed what it means to her to be part of such a big moment even in spite of the loss.

“I think it’s just great for the sport, just being able to be a part of history,” she explained. “Like I said, no matter which way it went tonight, I know this was going to be a night for the ages. And just being able to be a part of history is great. Playing against another great player, of course, is always amazing, and our viewership going up. And I’m sure so many different people watched us tonight. I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to keep raising women’s sports, not just women’s basketball but women’s sports in general.”

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Reese finished with 17 points, 20 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the loss. However, she was outshined by Clark’s 41 points and 12 assists as the Iowa star set NCAA Tournament records for both 3-pointers made and assists.

The added attention on women’s hoops has led to increased NIL opportunities for stars such as Reese and Clark, who rank among the top 10 college athletes regardless of sport according to On3’s NIL 100 rankings.

Tigers guard Flau’jae Johnson has also surpassed the $1 million mark in just her second season of college basketball. Of course, those numbers are well-deserved, but it goes beyond that with how she and others are inspiring the younger generation.

“Women’s basketball has gone to new heights,” Johnson said. “I’m happy to be a part of it. Just happy to be a part of it. It’s not all the time you get to see players like Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese. I’m just blessed. Last year I was a freshman seeing everything. This year I’m a sophomore able to contribute. Next year I’m going to leave my mark, grow the game.”

Reese and Johnson could both be back next season, which would again make LSU one of the strongest teams in the country. Hailey Van Lith, who transferred this past year from Louisville, could also return.

That would set up for another big season of women’s college basketball. But even if Reese and Van Lith decide to move on to the next level, they’ve left their mark already.

“Yeah, like they said, it’s an honor to be a part of it,” Van Lith said. “It was an honor to be in that moment. The best thing about rivalries is they don’t end. LSU and Iowa will play each other again, and we’ll have another opportunity.”