DALLAS (AP) — Caitlin Clark has put together one of the greatest individual seasons in NCAA history with eye-popping offensive numbers.
Iowa’s junior guard, though, saved her best performance for the game’s biggest stage, recording the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history to get Iowa to the Final Four for the first time in 30 years.
Clark was honored Thursday as The Associated Press women’s basketball Player of the Year. She received 20 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Voting was done before March Madness began.
“It’s a huge honor,” Clark said. “I picked a place that I perfectly fit into and that’s allowed me to show my skill set. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean something. It’s not the reason you play basketball, it’s just something that comes along with getting to do what you love.”
The Iowa coaching staff surprised Clark by sharing that she won the award while they were visiting the Iowa Children’s Hospital — a place near and dear to her. It also has huge ties to the Hawkeyes athletic department.
They put together a video of some of the children in the hospital congratulating Clark on an outstanding season, and in the middle of it, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder popped on the screen to tell her she won.
“I’m there for inspiring the next generation and being there for the people that you know are going through a hard time,” said Clark, who grew up in Iowa. “Being able to give joy to people that watch you play and watch your team play is amazing.”
She averaged 27.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds during the season to help Iowa go 26-6. Clark has 984 points, the sixth-most in a season by any player in Division I women’s history. She also has over 300 assists.
“She is spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court,” Bluder said.
Clark accepted the award in front of her Hawkeye teammates. One of whom asked Clark who were favorite teammate was and the point guard deftly sidestepped it by saying that they “all were her favorite.”
Indiana’s Teri Moren earned the AP Coach of the Year honors to complete a Big Ten sweep of the awards.
Next up for the Hawkeyes is undefeated South Carolina in the national semifinals. The Gamecocks are led by Aliyah Boston, last season’s winner of the award. She garnered the other eight votes this season.
“There’s so many great players, more than just me and (Aliyah),” Clark told the AP. “You can go on and on and list the tremendous players. I think that’s really good for our game when there’s a lot of great players. That’s what is going to help this game grow more than anything else.”
Whether it’s hitting deep 3s from the Hawkeye logo at home games, hitting off-balance game-winning shots or throwing pinpoint passes to teammates for easy baskets, Clark has excelled on the court this year to get Iowa to a place it hasn’t been in a long time.
“It’s funny, because the better the opponent, almost the better she plays,” Bluder said. “It’s like she locks in on those, when we’re playing against Top 25 teams. That’s when her statistics even go up even more, against great opponents.”
Clark is the second Iowa player to win the AP award in the past few seasons, joining Megan Gustafson in 2019.
DALLAS (AP) — Tickets prices on the secondary market are substantially higher for the women’s Final Four than for the men.
The women play in a much smaller venue, but they also have more recognizable names in the their Final Four. Only UConn on the men’s side is anything close to a traditional power.
One of the women’s stars is Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, who was honored as the AP Player of the Year on Thursday.
“I think it’s pretty incredible,” Clark said of the difference in ticket prices. “I think it’s starting to get the viewership, the attention, things like that that it deserves. When people really turn on the TV or sit in the seat, they understand how good the product is and how much fun it is to watch.”
An all-session ticket for the women’s Final Four was at least $475 on StubHub and $335 on Vivid Seats, before fees, as of 3 p.m. EDT Thursday. Men’s all-sessions tickets were going for at least $65 and $66, respectively.
The women’s semifinals on Friday, which is headlined by the matchup of Clark’s Hawkeyes against undefeated, top-ranked and defending champion South Carolina, start at $222 on StubHub and $184 on Vivid Seats. That compares to $45 and $44 for Saturday’s semifinals on the men’s side.
“It’s been building towards this for a long time,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “Fortunately for us — not just South Carolina, but us as women’s basketball — we’ve got a lot of star power behind our sport.”
Tickets for Sunday’s women’s championship game begin at $167 on StubHub and $131 on Vivid Seats, and Monday’s men’s title game is at $45 and $37.
The men are playing in Houston’s NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Texans, which seats close to 75,000. The women are at Dallas’ American Airlines Center, home of the NBA’s Mavericks and NHL’s Stars, which has nearly 20,000 seats.
“It’s pretty neat that it’s sold out,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “The cheapest ticket is more expensive than the cheapest ticket in Houston for the men’s Final Four. I thought that was eye-catching.”