In Iowa-UConn Final Four game we are left wondering what could have happened

CLEVELAND — Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder was walking through the tunnels of Rocket Mortgage Field House with a smile on her face. With Caitlin Clark and Hannah Stuelke walking ahead of her, the team was on their way to the media press conference as the winners of Friday night’s second semifinal game. The Hawkeyes will now face South Carolina in the national championship game on Sunday.

No. 1 seed Iowa defeated No. 3 UConn 71-69 in a game that before tip off was headlined as the “Paige vs. Caitlin” match up — but when the buzzer sounded many were asking about the controversial call made by officials with four seconds left in the game.

Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall, who was given the assignment of guarding Paige Bueckers whenever she was on the court, was on Bueckers when senior Aaliyah Edwards drew an offensive foul call for a moving screen she set on Marshall.

Bluder has spoken throughout the tournament about the strength of Marshall’s defense. And there couldn’t have been a bigger moment for her defensive skills to come in handy.

“My mentality going into the game was I am going to stay on her hip,” Marshall said. “Try to frustrate her a little bit and just make it tougher….At the end there I knew they were going to try to set her (Bueckers) a bunch of screens. If you are on her hip, they can’t move into you. And I know that, so if I stayed on her hip — that is a moving screen. I thought it was a great call. I am happy it happened. It was a huge stop when we needed it.”

Marshall said as soon as the whistle blew she knew it was a moving screen call. She celebrated by pumping his fist and yelling toward the crowd.

“I had a lot of emotions because I knew what a big stop that was.” she said.

Marshall added that she always loves the games when she is tasked with making things difficult for the opponent’s best player. She said this defensive performance ranks pretty high for her career.

“When you can defend a player like Paige to the best of your ability like that it ranks up there with some of the most fun games for me.”

UConn on the other hand entered the press conference clearly devastated and a bit in shock.

“It’s hard to explain how you feel when a season ends so suddenly. But we put ourselves in a position to win a game that we probably had no position to be in given the circumstances that we worked with,” said UConn head coach Geno Auriemma.

UConn was an injury-filled team this season, losing many key players and lacking depth throughout their whole NCAA tournament run.

When asked about her thoughts on the moving screen call, Edwards said she wasn’t given an explanation of the foul call, and added there was no time to really get an explanation for it. She said from her point of view it was pretty clean.

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

“I thought we executed [the play] well and were going to get a shot off,” said Bueckers. “I was just trying to come off the screen. Everyone can make a big deal about that one single play, but not one single play wins a basketball game or loses a basketball game.”

Many will debate if the call was the correct one, and wonder what magic Bueckers could have done with seconds on the clock ticking down.

“You can look at one play and say that killed us or that hurt us…but we should have done a better job, I should have done a better job than leaving the game up to chance like that,” said Bueckers.

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