South Carolina glad for chance to avenge 2023 loss to Iowa

April 6, 2024, 1:29 PM

CLEVELAND -- South Carolina coach Dawn Staley says she hasn't watched last year's Final Four loss to Iowa, which denied the Gamecocks of a potential three-peat.

South Carolina guard Raven Johnson, however, said she has rewatched the Gamecocks' only defeat last year about a hundred times.

Once again, the Gamecocks (37-0) are undefeated heading into Sunday's rematch against Iowa for the national championship (3 p.m. ET, ABC). Once again, star guard Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes stand in South Carolina's way.

"I was definitely hoping for a rematch," Johnson said Saturday.

Last season, Iowa defeated South Carolina 77-73 to advance to the national title game against LSU, which came away with the championship. Against the Gamecocks, Clark poured in 41 points to set an individual record for the highest-scoring NCAA tournament semifinal.

In the first quarter of that game, Clark waved off Johnson who was dribbling behind the 3-point line, leaving her completely unguarded. Instead of taking the wide-open shot, Johnson passed, turning the moment viral.

Johnson went on to score 13 points, including a big 3-pointer in the final minutes. But in addition to the loss, that moment of disrespect from Clark has stuck with Johnson through her sophomore season.

"Like Coach says, if you don't watch the bad stuff, why watch the good stuff with film?" said Johnson, explaining why she has seen the loss to Iowa so many times. "Just watching that, I learned a lot from last year's game."

Gamecocks guard Bree Hall said Johnson texted her immediately after Iowa defeated UConn 71-69 on Friday and told her it was time for their "get back" game.

"Immediately after [last year's] game, she was motivated. She was ready to go, ready for this revenge tour," Hall said. "She was very, very upset, and I definitely understand that. It's super humiliating to be waved off like that. But she's shaken back."

This season, Johnson was named second-team All-SEC while starting for the Gamecocks. In Friday's win over NC State, she nailed three 3s, dished five assists and made three steals as South Carolina went on a 29-6 run in the third quarter to put the game away.

Clark praised Johnson for her "tremendous year."

"She's been a true leader," Clark said Saturday. "I really admire everything that she's done this year."

Staley said last year's loss to Iowa -- and getting embarrassed by Clark -- motivated Johnson to come back stronger.

"That's what you need for your breakthrough," Staley said. "And if you don't have enough just power, strength, your breakthrough will never happen. Raven is going to be a great player because she was able to break through that moment and catapult her into that next level now."