BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — South Carolina’s victory over Caitlin Clark and Iowa in Sunday’s women’s NCAA championship game had a preliminary audience average of 18.7 million on ABC and ESPN. The only sporting events in the United States to draw a bigger TV audience since 2019 have been football, the World Cup and the Olympics.

The audience numbers are expected to increase when Nielsen releases its final numbers on Tuesday. Nielsen says the audience peaked at 24 million.

It’s the most-watched basketball game since 2019, when the men’s NCAA title game between Virginia and Texas Tech averaged 19.6 million on CBS.

Clark and Iowa have the three top audiences for women’s basketball. The Hawkeyes’ victory over UConn Friday night averaged 14.2 million, and their April 1 victory over LSU in the Elite Eight, a rematch of last year’s title game, drew 12.3 million.

The audience for the national title game was up 89% over last year, when Clark and Iowa fell to LSU. And it was 285% bigger than the viewership for the Gamecocks’ title two years ago, when they beat UConn.

The last NBA game to draw at least 18 million was Game 6 of the 2019 Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors (18.34 million).

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness