DALLAS - What started as a group of assorted puzzle pieces turned into a stunning masterpiece on Sunday, as the LSU Women's Basketball team won the 2023 NCAA National Championship game over Iowa, 102-85.
LSU Head Coach Kim Mulkey - who assembled nine transfers and freshmen in an effort to "Piece It 2gether" in her second season in Baton Rouge - brought the program its first Final Four victory in six attempts last Friday. Two days later, she led the flagship institution of her home state to its first NCAA Basketball Championship and the 50th team national title in LSU Athletics 130-year history.
It was the fourth championship in as many title game appearances in Mulkey's coaching career (previous wins at Baylor in 2005, 2012 and 2019), as she became the first women's basketball coach to win NCAA championships at multiple schools.
Championship merchandise is available now at LSUshop.net, the Official Online Store of LSU Athletics.
The Tigers will depart Dallas on Monday at approximately 10 a.m. CT aboard a charter flight to Baton Rouge, where there will be a welcome home gathering at the Maravich Center at approximately noon CT. Details on a national championship celebration to be held on the LSU campus will be published soon.
LSU (34-2) set the record for points in a Women's Final Four game, as the Tigers shot 54.3 percent (38 of 70) from the field including 11-of-17 from three-point range. LSU outrebounded Iowa, 37-26.
Iowa (31-7) made 50 percent of its field goals (28 of 56).
Attendance was announced as 19,842 in the American Airlines Center.
It was the unconscious shooting of LSU graduate transfer Jasmine Carson in the second quarter that ignited the Tigers offense. Carson, who had scored 11 points in the tournament but was without a basket since the second round, made her first seven shots from the field to score 22 points and spark the Tigers before halftime.
She led five Tigers in double figures, as LSU lit up the scoreboard while shooting better than 50 percent from the field throughout the contest. The Tigers, who topped the century mark in the first five games of the 2022-23 season, earned their sixth 100-point performance on the game's biggest stage.
Sophomore forward Angel Reese, a Maryland transfer and the key piece to the Tigers historic season, went to the bench with a pair of fouls late in the first quarter. Senior guard Alexis Morris, who played for three Power 5 teams prior to transferring to LSU to play for Mulkey for the second time, also picked up a second foul with 6:36 left in the half.
In place of these two LSU stalwarts, Carson along with junior-college transfer guard Last-Tea Poa combined to make 6-of-6 three pointers and extend LSU's lead from four to 17 by halftime. Graduate transfer LaDazhia Williams scored in every quarter of the game, making 9-of-16 shots from the field for 20 points.
The LSU stars got theirs in the high scoring affair, as Morris tallied 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting in 33 minutes. Reese set an NCAA single-season record with a 34th double doubles in 2022-23, scored 15 points with 10 rebounds in 29 minutes against the Hawkeyes.
Iowa junior guard Caitlin Clark, the 2023 Naismith National Player of the Year, led the Hawkeyes with 30 points, becoming the NCAA Tournament single-tournament leading scorer with 191 points.
Iowa forced Mulkey to take a timeout only 97 seconds into the contest, as the Hawkeyes turned three LSU turnovers into a 7-3 lead. The Tigers calmed down and responded immediately, taking their first lead of the game behind 5-of-6 field goals and an 11-3 run. LSU's Kateri Poole hit a three pointer and Reese capped the run with a free throw for a 16-12 LSU advantage with 4:40 left in the first quarter.
Iowa's Clark made consecutive three pointers to tie the game at 18-18, then 10 free throws were scored in the next three minutes as LSU led 24-22. With 38 seconds left, LSU's Jasmine Carson made a three pointer from the top of the key to give LSU a 27-22 lead after one quarter of action. Both Reese and Iowa forward Monica Czinano picked up two fouls in the quarter that saw 12 fouls called.
With Reese on the bench to start the second quarter, Iowa regained a brief 32-31 advantage behind a pair of three pointers.
But as the pace of the game somehow intensified, the rest of the half belonged to Carson. The LSU guard made seven-straight shots including five three pointers to tally 21 points in 12 minutes off the bench. Her final three pointer was banked in at the halftime buzzer to give LSU a 59-52 lead.
LSU's 59 points were an NCAA Women's Final Four record in a half.
The Tigers' lead ballooned to 63-42 with Reese's free throws early in the third quarter before Iowa went on a 15-2 run that included four three pointers and a three-point play. LSU's lead was cut from 21 to eight in a span of 2:49 in the third quarter, 65-57. As Iowa's leaders - Clark and Czinano - each picked up their fourth foul late in the third quarter (Clark's a technical for tossing the ball off the court), LSU took a 75-64 lead into the final 10 minutes of the season.
A three pointer by Iowa's Martin was answered by Morris' consecutive bucket and a layup by LSU's Williams for an 83-69 advantage with 7:11 to play when Iowa called a timeout. Iowa got no closer than 11 for the duration.
THE ROAD TO DALLAS
LSU (34-2), the No. 3 seed in the Greenville 2 Region after finishing the regular season second in the SEC, erased a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit with a 22-3 run in the national semifinal to defeat No. 1-seed Virginia Tech, 79-72.
On the road to the Women's Final Four, the Tigers defeated No. 14 Hawai'i and No. 6 Michigan at the Maravich Center, before knocking off No. 2-seeded Utah and No. 9-seeded Miami to advance to Dallas.
Iowa (31-7), the No. 2 seed in the Seattle 4 Region, beat the tournament's overall No. 1 seed and previously undefeated South Carolina in Friday's Final Four nightcap, 77-73, to advance to the first women's basketball national championship game in program history.
The Hawkeyes, winners of the Big Ten Tournament for the second-straight season, defeated No. 15 Southeastern Louisiana and No. 10 Georgia in the opening two rounds in Iowa City. In Seattle, Iowa beat No. 6 Colorado and No. 5 Louisville to advance to the Final Four.