Iowa-LSU game sets women’s NCAA basketball ratings record, drawing 12.3M viewers

Caitlin Clark

Monday night’s Elite 8 thriller between Iowa and LSU was the most-watched women’s basketball game in history, according to Nielsen data.

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The Hawkeyes, led by Caitlin Clark’s 41 points, turned back the Tigers 94-87 in a rematch of last season’s NCAA title game. The victory, aired by ESPN, sent Iowa back to the Final Four for the second consecutive season.

According to Nielsen, Monday night’s game averaged 12.3 million viewers, ESPN reported. That not only set a viewership record for a women’s basketball game, it also was one of the most-viewed games in any sport other than the NFL over the past year, according to the cable sports outlet.

It was also the most-watched college basketball game, men’s or women’s, to air on ESPN’s platforms, according to The Washington Post.

At one point, Monday’s game peaked at 16 million viewers, The Athletic reported. That broke the mark set last year, when LSU defeated Iowa in the national title game. That game averaged 9.9 million viewers and peaked at 12.6 million viewers, according to the sports outlet.

LSU coach Kim Mulkey was part of the record set last year and on Monday night. She was a player for the Louisiana Tech team that lost the 1983 NCAA title game to the University of Southern California. That game was watched by 11.84 million viewers, according to ESPN.

The women’s national semifinals begin Friday night, with unbeaten South Carolina facing North Carolina State in the first game, followed by Iowa against Connecticut.

Last year’s semifinal between South Carolina and Iowa was watched by an average of 5.5 million viewers, the largest audience for a women’s semifinal, according to The Athletic.

The entire 2023 Final Four weekend -- including the title game -- had an average of 6.5 million viewers, according to the sports news outlet.

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