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Iowa and LSU women are prepared to play each other again in the 2023 national championship game rematch

Iowa and LSU would both prefer not to face each other on Monday night in Albany, N.Y.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Iowa and LSU would prefer not to face each other Monday night.

It’s not that they don’t enjoy the challenge of a rematch of last year’s national championship game, but both teams wish the stage was a bit bigger.

“We talk about growing the game,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “Didn’t that national championship game have the highest ratings ever in women’s basketball? You’re probably going to anticipate this one will, too, but it needs to be at the Final Four.”

The storylines are plentiful. It’s not just a rematch, it’s last year’s champion against a No. 1 seed. And it’s two of the game’s biggest and most competitive stars in Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark going head-to-head — again.

The pair has brought comparisons to what Magic Johnson and Larry Bird did for men’s college basketball when they played for the national championship in 1979 and then in the NBA for the decade after. While Clark and Reese weren’t born yet when the two NBA stars were playing, they appreciate the comparisons.

“I would say me and Angel have always been great competitors. Obviously she played in the Big Ten for a while to begin her career, and that’s what makes women’s basketball so fun is you have great competition, and that’s what we’ve had all year long,” Clark said of Reese, who transferred to LSU from Maryland.

Reese said she and Clark are fine off the court and noted both are fierce competitors on it. A lot was made out of Reese trash-talking Clark after the title game. Clark was fine with it, saying then it was just part of the game.

“I think people just take it like we hate each other. Me and Caitlin Clark don’t hate each other,” Reese said. “I want everybody to understand that. It’s just a super competitive game.”

Said Mulkey: “You’ve got two very talented players that have brought a lot of attention to our sport. They both trash talk. They both make their teammates better. They both have their teammates’ back. They have both elevated our game to where we have people watching that never watched women’s basketball before.”

Last season’s national championship game drew a record 9.9 million viewers. (This Elite Eight matchup isn’t expected to draw quite as many viewers because it is airing on ESPN, while the title game was on ABC.)

But these are, of course, different teams from those that played last April in the Tigers’ 102-85 win.

LSU no longer has its three top scorers from that game. Forward LaDazhia Williams (20 points) and guards Jasmine Carson (22) and Alexis Morris (21).

In their place are forward Aneesah Morrow (16.5 points per game), a transfer from DePaul, and guards Mikaylah Williams (14.4) and Louisville transfer Hailey Van Lith (11.7).

“I just think they shoot the 3-ball; they rebound so well,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “You’ve got five people averaging in double figures. That’s really hard to guard when you have that kind of balance.”

And Iowa is more than just Clark, who had 15 assists in addition to her 29 points in the Hawkeyes’ blowout win over Colorado in the Sweet 16.

Gabbie Marshall and Kate Martin, who both scored 14 points against the Buffaloes, have taken on bigger roles this year. Additionally, 6-foot-2 Hannah Stuelke has become the team’s second-highest scorer, replacing Monika Czinano.

Reese expressed her admiration for Hannah's style of play, noting that she's a solid post player with more skills than Czinano. As a result, Reese anticipates having to defend her more aggressively than she did with Czinano last year.

Clark mentioned that she has gained insights from the previous year's defeat and intends to approach the game with a more assertive mindset this time.

Reflecting on the last encounter with LSU, she recalled taking 19 3-pointers and a total of 22 shots. She emphasized the importance of not just relying on 3-point shots, but also driving and penetrating the paint to create opportunities for her teammates.

Morris was tasked with the challenging responsibility of guarding Clark in the past, but she has since joined the Harlem Globetrotters. Now, sophomore Flau’jae Johnson will step into that role, with substantial support from her teammates.

Expressing her desire to compete at the highest level, she acknowledged Caitlin's exceptional skill. She aims to contain her defensively and secure a victory for her team.

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