Iowa-LSU draws 12.3 million viewers, most in women’s college basketball history

Kate Martin #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes shoots the ball during the second half against the LSU Tigers in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on April 01, 2024 in Albany, New York. 

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Iowa’s 94-87 win against LSU in the Elite Eight on Monday drew 12.3 million viewers, the most in women’s college basketball history, according to ESPN.

That figure topped the previous high of 9.9 million viewers from last season’s NCAA championship game between the same programs.  ESPN said Monday’s figure was the highest viewership for any college basketball game ever on its platforms and the second-highest of any basketball game — college or NBA — since 2012.

FanDuel told CNBC on Tuesday that Iowa-LSU was also its biggest betting event of all time for women’s sports.

ESPN said the women’s Elite Eight averaged 6.2 million viewers, up 184% year-over-year, and represented four of the top five most-watched games in that round on record.

The top-seeded Hawkeyes were led, once again, by superstar Caitlin Clark. The NCAA’s all-time leading scorer finished with 41 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds to help her program avenge a loss to the Tigers in last year’s title game.

LSU’s Angel Reese added 17 points and 20 rebounds in defeat. 

“No matter which way it went tonight,” Reese said, “I knew this was going to be a night for the ages.”

Reese, a second-team All-American, said postgame that she has received threats over the past year. 

“I’ve been through so much,” she said. “I’ve seen so much. I’ve been attacked so many times, death threats. I’ve been sexualized. I’ve been threatened. I’ve been so many things, and I’ve stood strong every single time.”

Reese’s turmoil began when, near the end of LSU’s victory over Iowa in last year’s title game, she approached Clark and waved an open hand across her face, a move popularized by actor and WWE star John Cena to mean “You can’t see me.” Reese then pointed to her ring finger in a gesture that indicated she would earn a championship ring.

Clark had made a similar gesture to another player earlier in the tournament. 

“All this has happened since I won the national championship,” Reese said. “And it sucks, but I still wouldn’t change anything, and I would still sit here and say I’m unapologetically me. I’m going to always leave that mark and be who I am and stand on that.”

Iowa will play No. 3 seed UConn — a program with 11 national championships and coached by Basketball Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma — in the Final Four at 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. The winner will face either No. 1 seed South Carolina or No. 3 seed NC State on Sunday for the national championship. 

Clark passed the legendary Pete Maravich in March to become the NCAA’s all time leading scorer. Maravich, who went on to star in the NBA, scored 3,667 points in three seasons at LSU from 1967 to 1970. Ahead of the Final Four, Clark has 3,900 career points. 

Clark announced in February she would enter the 2024 WNBA Draft and is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Indiana Fever.

“A lot of people counted us out at the beginning of the year with the people we lost,” Clark said after the Elite Eight win. “And all we did was work really hard. To get back here is really hard. This regional was loaded with so much talent. The job’s not finished.

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