LSU beat Iowa, 102-85, during the NCAA championship game in April. It was the most-viewed women's college basketball game ever, but the audience wasn't pleased with the officiating on both sides. A new NCAA review confirmed the merit of those complaints and found that the refereeing was subpar, according to The Associated Press.
Officials were graded and missed the mark, NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Lynn Holzman said.
“In the championship game itself, for example, we typically have a performance that I think is 91% historically,” she told the AP. “In that game, the percentage of correct calls was below that, around 88%. That’s factually the case.”
There's no denying that the Tigers won in an offensive explosion, scoring the highest point total in the history of women's basketball college championships. However, many of those buckets came from LSU's bench due to foul trouble.
Five LSU players picked up two fouls before halftime, including Angel Reese. The tournament's Most Outstanding Player was limited to just nine minutes in the first half. She finished the game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. In the previous game, Reese put up 24 points. It was reserve guard Jasmine Carson's 21-point effort in the first half that boosted LSU to the win, and she entered the contest averaging 8.4 points per game.
Angel Reese was called for her 2nd foul on this play 🤔 pic.twitter.com/vPZ7pOQs8O
— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) April 2, 2023
Iowa was in somewhat less foul trouble in the first half. They had three players with two or more fouls, including breakout star Caitlin Clark. She finished the first half on the bench after picking up her third foul on offense with a little over three minutes remaining in the second quarter.
By the third quarter, Clark picked up her fourth foul. It was a technical for her second delay-of-game violation, which didn't seem to actually delay anything. The NCAA updated its rules over the summer, so players won't be charged with technical fouls for similar infractions in the future.
Caitlin Clark received a technical for this moment.
Do you agree? pic.twitter.com/yjxeDDTFU7
— ESPN (@espn) April 2, 2023
Clark started strong, finishing the game with 30 points and some NCAA records. But where LSU had a burst from Carson to boost them, Iowa's bench wasn't as helpful. The Hawkeyes were outscored 29-2 in the first half, then Iowa power forward Monika Czinano fouled out with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter. The fifth-year senior recorded 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Fellow Iowa starter McKenna Warnock also fouled out.
When all was said and done, the game featured a total of 37 fouls — the most called in any title game. It broke down to almost equal amounts of calls on each team: 19 for Iowa and 18 for LSU.
Fans were so incensed by unnecessary referee involvement that "LET THEM PLAY" and "The Refs" began to trend on X, formerly Twitter. The organization reportedly planned to review NCAA tournament officiating at large following the 2024 championship's conclusion next April, but the backlash led to an accelerated timeline.
The amount of officials will not change for the upcoming NCAA tournament. There will be 116 officials and five alternates. The organization reportedly plans to add an additional 94 officials for the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament, which will create more opportunities for postseason experience.