What will it take for the LSU Tigers women’s basketball team to beat Iowa this afternoon? There’s a few keys to winning the national championship.
All eyes are on the LSU Tigers (33-2) women’s team as they compete for the first basketball national title in school history. The Bayou Bengals were among the most disrespected teams in the country, seeded 3rd in the Greenville 2 bracket after losing only two games. However, they thrived off the doubt and pulled off impressive wins over Greenville’s top seeds in Utah and Virginia Tech.
The LSU Tigers’ most challenging opponent is ahead in the Iowa Hawkeyes (31-6). Iowa packs one of the best scorers in the nation, but their six losses show they’re vulnerable. Such begs the question, what must the Tigers do to beat the Hawkeyes in Dallas?
Slow down Iowa’s Caitlin Clark
For valid reasons, Caitlin Clark is the 2023 Naismith College Player of the Year and AP Player of the Year. The junior guard is arguably the best shooter in the nation, having converted 47.5% of her field goals and 38.7% from beyond the arc. Moreover, Clark is coming off impressive games in which she dropped 41 points in 39 minutes against No. 5 Louisville and No. 1 South Carolina.
There is no stopping Clark; she’s too good. First, however, the LSU Tigers must consider how opponents have slowed Clark’s production during the season. For example, Maryland employed a box-and-one defense against Iowa during their Big 10 Tournament semifinal. Clark scored 22 points, and Iowa won, but limiting her output resulted in a close game.
The box-and-one scheme employs zone defense around all four corners of the paint and player-on-player at the point. Such a method is an option for Kim Mulkey’s squad. Either way, the LSU Tigers must keep pace with Iowa’s offense.
Exploit Iowa‘s defensive scheme
In the Final Four, Iowa’s defense wholly sold out to stifle South Carolina’s offense in the low post. Doing such left the Gamecocks’ guards open to shoot around the perimeter. Turning South Carolina’s offense out was successful as their perimeter shooters struggled to convert.
We expect a similar defensive approach from Iowa against the LSU Tigers. LSU has sometimes struggled with their perimeter shooting during the women’s NCAA Tournament. Moreover, their three-point shooting remains awful. However, leaving LSU’s guards open to shoot enables Alexis Morris to have another big game.
Morris did not hold back when discussing the Hawkeyes’ Final Four defensive approach.
Keep LaDazhia Williams on the floor
LaDazhia Williams remains the unsung hero in the LSU Tigers’ NCAA Tournament run. The transfer forward from Mizzou was the most critical player during LSU’s Final Four win. For example, Virginia Tech went on an 11-0 run in the 2nd quarter after Williams exited the game following her second foul.
Conversely, the LSU Tigers’ 18-0 run in the 2nd half featured Williams on the floor. The 6-4 senior played 36 minutes, scored 16 points, and snagged seven rebounds. Moreover, the LSU Tigers aren’t playing for the title without Williams’ 24 points in 40 minutes against Utah in the Sweet 16.
Keep all the attention on Angel Reese
Regardless of the box score, Angel Reese is often the best player on the floor. She’s had some quiet starts to NCAA Tournament games but always finishes strong. Better yet, there are games in which the ‘Bayou Barbie’ dominates all four quarters. The LSU Tigers need such a trend to continue this afternoon.
Reese will remain LSU’s center of gravity in the championship game. We’re curious to see what Iowa does to slow her down, but at the very least, we expect double-teaming. Thus, Reese’s presence will constantly leave another Tiger open during offensive possessions. That open Tiger must make the Hawkeyes pay.
The LSU Tigers head to their NCAA Tournament Championship as 3.5-point underdogs. As if the Bayou Bengals didn’t already have a big enough chip on their collective shoulder…
We are ready for an action-packed title game in Dallas. Regardless of the result, the LSU Tigers journey in Mulkey’s 2nd season at the helm remains an incredible one.