Friday’s Final Four matchup between South Carolina and Iowa will feature two of the premier players in the country in Aliyah Boston and Caitlin Clark. But if you ask the stars themselves, they’re not focused on the narrative.
“It’s a team game. It’s never just gonna be one player,” Boston told reporters Thursday. “And so I don’t really buy into the narrative of ‘Aliyah vs. Caitlin.’ I just buy into Gamecocks vs. Hawkeyes.”
Of course, it’s hard not to want to let these two drive the narrative. Boston is last year’s consensus player of the year, while Clark has been winning the accolades this year.
All season long, questions have arisen about who is the better player: Is it Clark, Iowa’s high-powered offensive machine? Or Boston, South Carolina’s defensive-minded center, who can also score on any given night?
For Iowa coach Lisa Bluder, comparing the two players is like comparing “apples to oranges.”
“It makes no sense. They are completely different players. They are completely different positions. They’re both great at what they do, but what they do is different. So I don’t think you can compare the two of them,” she said. “They both contribute so much to their team’s success, but to me it’s not Caitlin vs. Aliyah. It’s Iowa vs. South Carolina, and we have to continue to remember that.”
On Friday, the matchup won’t be about who is the player of the year. It won’t be about tearing down other players to prop another up. It’ll be about the growth of the game as a whole, and about which team – Iowa or South Carolina – is advancing to Sunday’s national championship game.
As for her focus Friday, Clark echoed Boston’s sentiments.
“It’s going to be Iowa vs. South Carolina, and that’s who’s going to win the game. It’s not going to be one player who’s going to win the game,” she said. “I’m lucky enough to have four really good teammates on the court with me at the same time. I love playing a team sport. I don’t think I would like to play an individual sport.”
According to South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, everyone in the Gamecocks’ locker room wants a chance to guard Clark.
“It’s going to take all of them probably and more to guard Caitlin,” she said. “She is someone that is unpredictable, like she’ll be able to pivot and take and make incredible shots, both from outside, way outside the three, to at the rim. So we got to show her different looks in order for us to hopefully keep her somewhat under control.”
But while some might hone in on Clark as the difference-maker for the Hawkeyes in Friday night’s game, South Carolina players aren’t just focusing on the star.
“They have a whole starting five we have to worry about. I think if we get too focused on the main player, we’ll let others get off,” Gamecocks senior Zia Cooke said. “So Coach definitely emphasized on that, making sure that we’re playing everyone. Everyone that’s on the floor is doing their defensive job to stop their team from doing what they usually do.”