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Iowa-LSU sets women’s NCAA hoops ratings record with 12.3M viewers

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By jeenmediaa



Caitlin Clark can claim another highlight — the most-watched women’s college basketball game on record.

Iowa’s 94-87 victory over LSU in Monday night’s Albany 2 Region final averaged 12.3 million viewers on ESPN, according to Nielsen. Clark scored 41 points as the Hawkeyes avenged last year’s loss to the Tigers in the national championship game.

The viewership surpassed the 11.84 million who watched the 1983 NCAA championship game between Southern California and Louisiana Tech. LSU coach Kim Mulkey played for Louisiana Tech and was matched up against USC great Cheryl Miller in that game, which was won by the Trojans 64-58.

According to Sports Media Watch, it is the most-viewed basketball game on ESPN since Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference finals, when the Cleveland Cavaliers’ victory over the Boston Celtics averaged 13.6 million.

Clark’s four games in the women’s NCAA tournament on ESPN and ABC have averaged 6.83 million. Iowa will face UConn in Friday’s second national semifinal at the Women’s Final Four on ESPN. The winner will face either South Carolina or North Carolina State on Sunday. The national championship game will air on ABC.

The Hawkeyes’ 89-68 win over Colorado in Saturday’s regional semifinal game averaged 6.9 million viewers on ABC, making it the third most-viewed women’s tournament game since ESPN started carrying the tournament in 1996.

Iowa’s last five games on television have surpassed 3 million viewers, including the last three that have drawn at least 4.9 million.

LSU’s victory over UCLA on Saturday, which preceded the Iowa game, averaged 3.8 million, the second most-watched Sweet 16 game on record.

South Carolina’s win over Indiana on Friday averaged 2.1 million on ESPN and UConn’s victory over Duke on Saturday, also on ESPN, drew 2 million.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to make the moment a movement,” said former Division I guard Isis Young, now a broadcaster and analyst. “Right now, women’s basketball is a movement … and the movement is really riding on the back of these players that we’re watching.”

And make no mistake: People were watching. Last year’s LSU-Iowa national championship game, on ABC, drew 9.9 million viewers. Monday’s LSU-Iowa rematch, on cable, crushed that number.

Baseball had a no-hitter on Monday night; Ronel Blanco‘s gem for Houston against Toronto didn’t seem to capture attention the way Monday’s NCAA tournament doubleheader involving Iowa-LSU and UConn-USC did. Phoenix’s Devin Booker scored 52 points, his league-high-tying third game of 50 or more this season; it happened while fellow NBA guards Damian Lillard and Patrick Beverley were tweeting about freshman sensation JuJu Watkins and Clark.

“Caitlin Clark the truth,” offered New York Knicks forward Josh Hart.

It is a perfect storm. Even in defeat, LSU star Angel Reese understood the magnitude of the moment.

“I think it’s just great for the sport, just being able to be a part of history,” Reese said Monday night. “Like I said, no matter which way it went tonight, I know this was going to be a night for the ages. And just being able to be a part of history is great.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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