Iowa's close win over UConn in women's Final Four draws record ratings


Women’s college basketball continues to captivate the nation’s attention. 

Just a few days ago, the rematch of last year’s NCAA Division I women’s basketball national championship between LSU and Iowa drew more than 12 million viewers. It became the most watched women’s college basketball game on record — until now.

Approximately 9.9 million viewers tuned in last year to watch the Angel Reese-led Tigers defeat Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes in the championship game. ESPN revealed that Iowa’s narrow win over the UConn Huskies drew a record-shattering 14.2 million viewers.

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The Iowa Hawkeyes celebrate in the locker room after a game against the UConn Huskies during the Final Four at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse April 5, 2024, in Cleveland. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The game became ESPN’s most watched college basketball game in history — men’s or women’s. The game peaked at around 17 million viewers, according to ESPN.

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Friday’s Final Four started with the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks going against North Carolina State. ESPN noted that an average of 7.1 million tuned in to watch South Carolina eliminate N.C. State.

Caitlin Clark and Paige bueckers

Caitlin Clark (22) of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Paige Bueckers (5) of the UConn Huskies react in the second half during a Final Four game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse April 5, 2024, in Cleveland. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Viewers were treated to a thrilling game that featured some of the most recognizable stars in the sport. But a late-game sequence sparked controversy. 

A costly turnover with just a minute remaining led to UConn guard Nika Muhl’s 3-pointer to cut into Iowa’s lead. The Huskies trailed by just one point with just under ten seconds remaining and had possession. But with just 3.9 seconds left and a 70-69 lead for Iowa, UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards was called for an illegal screen on Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall.

Paige Bueckers dribbles

Paige Bueckers (5) of the UConn Huskies in the first half of the Final Four against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse April 5, 2024, in Cleveland. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Edwards was setting a pick to presumably set up Paige Bueckers for a potential game-winning shot. But the offensive foul call resulted in a turnover, and UConn never got the ball back.

Edwards later said referees did not offer an explanation. 

“I wasn’t given an explanation,” she said after the game. “There was no real time to get an explanation. From my point of view, it was pretty clean.”

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Iowa and South Carolina play for the NCAA women’s national championship Sunday at 3 p.m. ET in what could be another record-setting meeting.

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