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Controversial foul call against UConn propels Iowa to National Championship

Controversial foul call against UConn propels Iowa to National Championship

CASCILLA, Mississippi – The most anticipated game of the NCAA Women’s final four, UConn vs. Iowa, delivered with late-game drama. The Iowa Hawkeyes ousted Paige Bueckers’ UConn Lady Huskies, 71-69, to punch Iowa’s ticket to the National Championship. Iowa will have a tough task in South Carolina, who remains undefeated this season after dominating NC State in the Final Four. Read controversial foul call against UConn propels Iowa to National Championship below.

While Iowa sets their sights on the Gamecocks, nobody can deny the last-second foul call that gave Iowa possession and neutralized Paige Bueckers from taking the biggest shot of the game.

Related: NCAA Men’s Final Four Best Prop Plays

Was it the right call?

How We Got Here

Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies cooked up a terrific game plan for stifling Caitlin Clark and limited her shot selection throughout most of the game.

UConn’s senior guard, Nika Muhl, played deny defense on Clark for the entire game. She followed her up the court, often picking up Clark from 94 feet and forced her from the middle of the floor, where Clark can be so dangerous.

The frustrating defensive scheme held Clark to only six points in the first half, but Connecticut couldn’t hold the phenom forever and Clark finally broke free in the second half. She ended the game with 21 point on 7 assists and 9 rebounds. Hannah Stuelke’s standout performance kept Iowa in the game, even when they trailed by as many as 12 points. Stuelke dominated the paint with 23 points.

While the Huskies could not extend their improbable run this year, they looked terrific for most of the game. UConn is always tough on defense and the game plan against Clark held the Hawkeyes to a mere 71 points, which is very impressive considering Iowa is the highest scoring team in the league.

UConn struggled to get their star, Paige Bueckers, enough touches on offense. Bueckers ended the game with 17 points, but it often felt like she was nonexistent for many of the offensive sets. Nike Muhl and Aaliyah Edwards picked up a lot of the offensive slack.

Ultimately, UConn’s thin roster caught up to them as many of their key players got into some foul trouble. This allowed Iowa to be more aggressive and take control of the game.

The Foul Call

With 9.8 seconds left on the clock, UConn had one more opportunity to get Bueckers the basketball for a last-second shot. The Lady Huskies were down 70-69 and in a position to win the game with a two or three point shot.

Muhl brought up the basketball and passed to Bueckers on the wing. Bueckers gives it back to Muhl in order to run a cut at the top of the key and let Edwards set a screen on Iowa guard, Gabbie Marshall. Marshall had defended Bueckers well all game and the Lady Huskies knew they’d need an off-ball screen to create some space for Bueckers to let her take the last shot.

As you can see below, Edwards is called for an illegal screen, giving Iowa their possession and handing them the win.

In realtime, it’s very hard to see why the screen is called illegal. Marshall is much smaller than Edwards and, while she sells the contact well, everyone has trouble fighting through Edwards. That’s one of the reasons she sets so many screens for Bueckers. She’s big.


Some slow-motion videos with better angles (like the one below) do seem to suggest that Edwards hadn’t completely set her feet and may have dipped the shoulder. Check it out for yourself.

The video shows Edwards’ elbow push off Marshall, knocking her off-balance. However, this is such a key moment in the game and Edwards can’t help that she’s so much bigger than Marshall. It would have been nice to see Bueckers take this shot, especially because she wasn’t necessarily open after the screen.

That last point might be irrelevant to the screen, but the panelists on the Bird and Taurasi show brought it up in their reaction to the foul call.

For the women’s game to have taken center stage, it is frustrating to have the game end this way. Iowa has given us some exciting basketball this year and they have ignited a huge surge in fan interest. Moving screen or not, I think all of the fans wanted to see the game end with a Bueckers’ shot at the buzzer.

UConn Reacts

Reporters asked both Bueckers and Aureimma about the call after the game. Here’s what she said.

“Everybody can make a big deal of that one single play, but not one single play wins a basketball game or loses a basketball game,” she said. “You can look at one play and say, ‘Oh, that killed us or that hurt us.’ But we should have done a better job.”

Bueckers is well known for her grace off the court. She doesn’t slam players or complain about the refs, so her comments here are pretty on brand for anyone who has been following her career.

Auriemma, on the other hand, was a little more candid. He noted that UConn was called for a few illegal screens in the fame while Iowa was not called for any. He ended his comments by saying that his team has to get better at setting screens. Watch below.

Gabbie Marshall

Lastly, we have Gabbie Marshall, who did a terrific job defending Bueckers all game. Marshall explained in the interview below that she tried to stay on Bueckers’ hip on the last play. According to Marshall, if you’re on the players’ hip and someone sets an off-ball screen that leans into the defense, it’s illegal.

Whether Marshal’s interpretation of both good defense and illegal screens is correct is irrelevant.

Marshall’s heads-up play sold the illegal screen. She stayed on her feet, but flailed just enough to catch the referee’s attention. The whistle changed the entire play and we’ll never know if Paige would have made that final shot.


  • Jack Fredericks, Editor

    Jack Fredericks is the editor of Godzilla Wins. He has a M.A. Literature and the Environment and a M.A. in Teaching. He covers the NFL, college football, and the NBA. He combines his unique perspective with advanced metrics to provide robust analysis for your enjoyment. Twitter: @JohnMattFred

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