The gritty battle for the women’s college basketball championship on Sunday between Louisiana State and Iowa drew an average of 9.9 million viewers, making it the most viewed N.C.A.A. women’s basketball final in television history, ESPN said on Monday. Peak viewership hovered around 12.6 million views and overall viewership was about double the viewership of the championship game last year.

It was the most viewed college sporting event ever on ESPN+, the sports network’s streaming platform, the network said. The game was, for the first time in decades, on ABC, ESPN’s parent network, as Louisiana State’s rebounding star Angel Reese and Iowa’s dazzling 3-point shooter Caitlin Clark put on a show.

“This is the game we love and seeing it get the recognition it deserves is obviously super rewarding,” Monika Czinano, Iowa’s starting center, said on Sunday. “It’s about time women’s basketball gets this kind of viewership, and it can only go up.”

For viewers just tuning into the women’s game, Czinano offered two words of advice: “Buckle up.”

“It’s only going to get more exciting and more fun,” she said. “The game is evolving in such a great way. I’m glad you’re tuning in now, but keep it up.”

The preliminary viewership numbers compiled by Nielsen were just the latest in a record-breaking tournament for the women’s game: the highest tournament attendance (357,542); the highest scoring final (102-85); the highest scoring half in a final (59 points by L.S.U.); most double-doubles in a single season (by Reese with 34); and Clark’s performance in the round of 8 with the first 40-point triple-double in a Division I N.C.A.A. tournament, men’s or women’s.

Sunday’s numbers broke the previous record by millions — 5.68 million for the 2002 Connecticut vs. Oklahoma championship, when the Huskies were led by Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Tamika Williams and Diana Taurasi. The viewership was also nearly double the ESPN audience for the semifinal game between Iowa and South Carolina on Friday, which was watched by 5.5 million viewers, the largest audience ever for a semifinal.

ESPN has shown most of the women’s tournament since 1996, when it took over the rights from CBS. Before Friday night’s games, viewership was already up 42 percent compared with last year’s tournament. But the rights to show the tournament, and 28 other N.C.A.A. title events, are up for a new deal next year.

Leaders in women’s basketball have long fought for maximizing the tournament’s TV rights as a way to help a steep imbalance with the men’s game. The N.C.A.A. estimates that the women’s tournament could be worth at least $85 million in 2025, compared with just $6 million in ESPN’s current agreement. Women’s basketball is part of a larger $34 million broadcast package that includes other N.C.A.A. sports. Charlie Baker, the association’s new president, suggested over the weekend that the women’s tournament could get its own deal next year.

For some of the sport’s biggest stars, the numbers are finally catching up to the game.

“When people come and watch and understand the game, they see how fun and how great the product is, and they keep coming back for more,” Clark said after the game on Sunday. “It doesn’t surprise me.”

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