In terms of sports rematches, the April 1, 2024 women’s basketball contest between Iowa and LSU, a repeat of last year’s NCAA championship game, which this year decided which team would reach the Final Four, wasn’t quite a repeat of the 1938 boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. But it was close. Caitlin Clark, who is to basketball what Taylor Swift is to pop music and culture, albeit with far more talent, scored 42 points and added 12 assists while leading her Hawkeyes to a 94-87 victory over Angel Reese and the LSU Tigers. Do not let the final score fool you. It wasn’t that close.

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The first half gave zero indication of how the game would play out, with momentum ebbs and flows on both ends of the court and absolutely no quarter given by either side. With the score tied at 45 going into the second half, one reasonably expected more of the same and a game that neither team would settle until the final seconds.

Then, Clark channeled her inner Steph Curry, albeit one with better ball distribution skills, and made it trey time with four 3-pointers, each from a greater distance from the basket than the last. Not uncoincidentally, Iowa outscored LSU by 12 points in the quarter.

The fourth quarter was two heavyweights doing their best to pulverize their opponent, but for LSU, it wasn’t enough. While playing on a tweaked ankle, Reese still managed 17 points and 20 rebounds but fouled out near the game’s end after a gallant effort.

The game’s overall tenor was physical without being underhanded, Iowa playing with an edge they lacked in last year’s championship game loss. Both teams conducted themselves during the game with respect for it and each other, with no cheap shots or gestures evidenced. The same cannot be said for the pregame moment during the Star-Spangled Banner when LSU decided it would be a perfect time to channel its inner Colin Kaepernick.

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That sound you hear is karma having a good chuckle.

While Reese has yet to decide whether she will return for a final year at LSU or go to the WNBA, Clark’s future is certain. Regardless of how Iowa fares in the Final Four, come April 15, she will be on stage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (in Brooklyn, NY, in case there’s any question) smiling broadly and holding her Indiana Fever jersey, which Nike is doubtless working triple shifts at its overseas factories to crank out so they can go on sale the moment this year’s WNBA draft fait accompli is accompli-ed. Not unsurprisingly, Clark’s main income will not come from the Fever.

            

Plus Nike, plus Gatorade. Clark is not hurting for rent money.

Clark’s impact on women’s college basketball and women’s sports period is impossible to overstate. She is a genuine pop culture phenomenon as opposed to the fictitious and factious kind, a/k/a “influencers.” She is the real deal who has made her fame by showing what only hard work can accomplish. Clark is arguably America’s sweetheart, not because of media hype but a natural outgrowth of her unaffected Midwest earthiness and embodiment of how a strong work ethic will bring about the desired results. She has captured the public imagination and shows no signs of self-destruction. 

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Clark is a generational talent who has again ascended to the big stage. Last year’s Iowa-LSU championship game drew nearly ten million TV viewers. While, as of this writing, the ratings for the just-concluded April 1, 2024 rematch are not in, it would not be a surprise if it shows an even higher total. Caitlin Clark has made the NCAA men’s basketball tournament close to an afterthought, and there is more to come.