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Iowa star Caitlin Clark cools off after record-setting start in NCAA final vs. South Carolina – The Mercury News

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By WILL GRAVES (AP National Writer)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Caitlin Clark cooled off Sunday after a record-setting start in her final NCAA game.

The Iowa superstar scored 18 of her 21 points in the first quarter against South Carolina in the championship game. Her scoring outburst over the opening 10 minutes were the most ever in a single quarter of a title game and helped the Hawkeyes build an early 27-20 lead.

The unbeaten Gamecocks responded in the second quarter to take a 49-46 lead at halftime. Clark made just 1 of 6 shots in the second and had her pocket picked by South Carolina’s Raven Johnson, who raced in for a layup in the final seconds that gave the Gamecocks a little breathing room.

The NCAA’s all-time leading scorer came out firing early to break the single-quarter record of 16 set by LSU’s Jasmine Carlson in the second quarter of the Tigers’ win over Iowa in last year’s title game.

The NCAA went to a quarter system in 2016.

The Gamecocks used multiple defenders to try to keep up with Clark. It didn’t seem to matter. She knocked down three 3-pointers in the opening 10 minutes, including a rainbow over 6-foot-7 South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso.

Clark’s teammates scored the first seven points of the quarter. She took care of the rest, scoring 18 of Iowa’s final 20.

South Carolina, however, recovered in the second quarter to move within 20 minutes of its second national title in three years.

The late sequence provided a bit of redemption for Johnson, who says she nearly quit basketball after South Carolina’s loss to Iowa last year in the Final Four. While Johnson had 13 points in the defeat, she was waved off by Clark at one point, Clark’s way of dismissing Johnson as an offensive threat.

Johnson says she’s become a better shooter because of it and she remains a standout defender. Her layup was her lone bucket of the opening half, but she added three steals, three rebounds, two blocks and two assists while often shadowing Clark.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness



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