Clark's epic win sets US women's basketball TV ratings record

Iowa's <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Caitlin Clark;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Caitlin Clark</a> celebrates after beating LSU 94-87 in what was the highest-rated US women's basketball telecast ever, with an audience of 12.3 million (Sarah Stier)

A US women's basketball record television audience of 12.3 million people watched sensation Caitlin Clark lead Iowa over rival Louisiana State University in the college playoffs, telecaster ESPN said Tuesday.

The previous record was 11.83 million viewers for the 1983 final between Southern California and Louisiana Tech on CBS, a major network rather than a cable telecaster.

Clark, the all-time leading scorer for men or women in the history of US college basketball, scored 41 points in Iowa's 94-87 victory over the Tigers in a Monday rematch of last year's March Madness championship game.

The 22-year-old Hawkeyes guard, set to be the top pick in the April 15 Women's NBA Draft, made nine 3-pointers in the contest, matching the record for a women's NCAA tournament game and passing Diana Taurasi for the all-time 3-pointers record in the event.

"When the stage is the brightest, when the spotlight is the brightest, she's at her very best," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said Tuesday of Clark.

"Her distant threes last night were spectacular. Some people wither in the moment. She just gets stronger in the moment. When it's her time, I mean, she's going to just shine."

ESPN's previous women's basketball record viewership was 9.9 million people for last year's Iowa-LSU final, but jumped 24% this year to become the top US prime-time program Monday night.

Iowa advanced to Friday's March Madness semi-finals, where the Hawkeyes will face the University of Connecticut. A victory would soar the Hawkeyes into Sunday's final against either North Carolina State or South Carolina.

The ratings made the Iowa victory the most watched basketball game on ESPN since game seven of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference finals between Boston and the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.

The contest outdrew every Major League Baseball game in more than a year and every National Hockey League game since game seven of the 1971 Stanley Cup final between Chicago and Montreal.

"Anytime that we have the chance to elevate women's basketball and to showcase just how great our game is, we're going to take full advantage of that," Bluder said.