Iowa-LSU women’s NCAA basketball game sets ratings record

Monday night’s Elite Eight showdown between Caitlin Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes and Angel Reese’s LSU Tigers set the all-time ratings record for a women’s college basketball game, according to ESPN.

More than 12 million people tuned in to watch the much-hyped rematch of 2023’s national championship game, which saw Iowa avenge last year’s loss and advance to its second straight Final Four. The audience peaked at 16.1 million viewers, according to ESPN.

ESPN also boasted Monday’s audience of 12.3 million made it the “most-watched college basketball game EVER on ESPN platforms.”

Iowa, led by Clark’s 41 points, downed LSU 94-87 to advance to the next round in Cleveland.

“Just being able to be a part of history is great. Playing against another great player, of course, is always amazing, and our viewership going up,” Reese said after the loss. “And I’m sure so many different people watched us tonight. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to keep raising women’s sports, not just women’s basketball, but women’s sports in general.”

The average women’s NCAA tournament game rating is up by 127% year over year from the 2023 tourney, according to a news release from ESPN parent company Disney. It added the viewership for the Elite Eight game was ESPN’s highest audience for any basketball game since the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

Iowa will play Connecticut on Friday at around 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The first game of the Final Four features No. 1 overall seed and undefeated South Carolina against NC State at 7 p.m.

Website Sports Media Watch reported the previous ratings record for women’s basketball was 11.84 million for the 1983 women’s NCAA title game, in which the legendary Cheryl Miller led USC to a win over Louisiana Tech (which had starting guard Kim Mulkey, now LSU’s head coach).

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