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Iowa vs. LSU sets viewership record

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Follow live coverage today as Iowa, UConn meet in Final Four

When asked about what she said to Caitlin Clark after Iowa's 94-87 win over LSU in the Elite Eight game in Albany — a game that saw the transcendent Clark score 41 points and tie the NCAA Tournament single-game record with nine 3-pointers — LSU women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey said, "What did I say to her? I said, I sure am glad you're leaving. I said, Girl, you something else. Never seen anything like it."

No one has ever seen anything like what we are seeing right now when it comes to women's college basketball viewership. Clark has shot down plenty of records during her career and she and those who played in Monday night's game can now add this to their resume: They played in the most-watched women's college basketball game in history.

Iowa's win over LSU averaged 12.3 million viewers and peaked at 16 million viewers. That shattered the previous all-time mark set last year for LSU's win over Iowa in last year's championship, a game that averaged a record 9.9 million viewers and peaked at 12.6 million viewers.

UConn's win over USC in Monday's other Elite Eight matchup drew 6.7 million viewers, which would have surpassed every title game viewership since 1996 except for last year's championship. Viewership for UConn-USC peaked at 10.4 million viewers.

Prior to last year, the previous record for an NCAA women's basketball title game in the ESPN era (since 1996) was 5.68 million viewers for UConn's title win over Oklahoma in 2002, a game that featured Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. The previous all-time record for any women's basketball game prior to last year's title game was 8.1 million viewers for a Virginia-Stanford national semifinal on CBS in 1992.

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But all this existed in a world before Clark and Co. sent viewership to new orbits. Iowa's win over Colorado in the Sweet 16 averaged 6.9 million viewers. These are unheard of numbers in the women's game for that round.

Now comes the national semifinals Friday night on ESPN. Last year's Iowa-South Carolina tournament semifinal was watched by an average of 5.5 million viewers, the largest audience ever for a semifinal. Both semifinal games combined averaged 4.5 million viewers, which was the most-watched college Final Four. The entire 2023 Final Four weekend — including the championship — garnered an average of 6.5 million viewers.

This year's semifinals  — undefeated South Carolina versus N.C. State in the early game followed by Iowa against UConn — will undoubtedly shatter last year's Final Four record. UConn has historically been the sport's standard bearer for women's basketball viewership and Clark has taken the sport to levels never seen before.

GO DEEPER

Hiding under hoodies, mistaken identity, avoiding lobbies: Inside Caitlin Clark's celebrity

Required reading

(Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

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