MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – dawn staley and South Carolina buttoned up on defense and won their second national championship, smothering UConn for a 64-49 victory Sunday night that ended the Huskies’ unbeaten streak in title games.
Destanni Henderson scored a career-high 26 points aliyah boston he added 11 points and 16 rebounds, and the Gamecocks handed Geno Auriemma’s Huskies their first loss in 12 NCAA title games.
With Staley calling the shots in a $5,000 jacket, South Carolina took UConn to school on the boards and capped a wire-to-wire run as the No. 1 team in the country in The Associated Press poll. The Gamecocks also won the championship in 2017 with A’ja Wilson leading the way.
This time it was Boston, the AP Women’s Player of the Year, and her fellow post players from South Carolina who dominated the biggest stage of the game. The Gamecocks outrebounded UConn 49-24, including a 21-6 advantage on the offensive boards. They also clamped down on star Paige Bueckers and the Huskies on defense, just as they did all season.
It was South Carolina night from the start. The Gamecocks (35-2) jumped out to an 11-2 lead, grabbing almost all the rebounds at both ends of the floor. They led 22-8 after one quarter to the delight of their loyal fans, who traveled to Minneapolis to be a part of the packed crowd.
UConn (30-6) trailed by 16 in the second quarter before Minnesota native Bueckers got going. After taking just one shot in the first quarter, he scored nine points in the second to put the Huskies up 35-27 at the half. He finished with 14.
An 8-2 run to start the third quarter put South Carolina up 43-29 before the Huskies finally started to connect from behind the arc. UConn missed their first eight 3-point attempts until Caroline Ducharme hit one from the wing and Evina Westbrook followed with another to pull the Huskies within 43-37.
That’s as close as they could get thanks to Henderson.
The senior guard had a three-point play to close out the third quarter and then had the team’s first four points in the fourth to restore the double-digit lead, and the Huskies couldn’t recover.
This was UConn’s first trip to the championship game since 2016, when the Huskies won the last of four straight titles. Since then, the team has suffered heartbreaking losses in the national semifinals, losing twice in overtime, before beating Stanford on Friday night. The Huskies were trying to win their 12th title in the same city where they won their first in 1995.
Auriemma said Saturday that when his team won each of its 11 titles, the Huskies entered the game as the better team. They certainly weren’t on Sunday.
It had been one of the most challenging seasons of Auriemma’s Hall of Fame career. UConn overcame losing eight players for at least two games to injury or illness, including Bueckers, who missed nearly three months with a left knee injury sustained in early December. He returned in late February, but was not at the same level that earned her AP Player of the Year title as a freshman last season.
- The national title victory also secured a program record with 35 wins, breaking a tie with the 2014-15 team. Of those 35 wins, the Gamecocks finish with a perfect 14-0 record against nationally ranked teams, another single-season program record.
- dawn staley he is only the sixth head coach in NCAA women’s tournament history to win more than one national championship.
- aliyah boston was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, after averaging 17 points, 17 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game in Minneapolis.
- Boston’s 11 points and 16 rebounds give it 30 double-doubles on the season. The junior entered the 2021-22 season with 30 career double-doubles from her in her first two seasons combined (64 games).
- Destanni Henderson he really saved the best for last; the senior point guard scored a career-high 26 points in the game, including 10 in the fourth quarter alone. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Henderson is the first player since 2000 to have a career-high scoring game of his own in the national championship.
- Henderson’s performance gives her 1,220 career points, taking her to 24the in career points program history and his 157 career 3-pointers made is eighth in program history.
- Sunday marked the first loss in an NCAA championship game for UConn.
- Holding the Huskies 25 points below their season scoring average, Sunday extended a streak of 47 straight games in which South Carolina held their opponent below their season scoring average.
- The Gamecocks set the tone early and won the game in the first quarter, starting the first five minutes of the game on a 13-2 run. Of those 13 points, nine came from second-chance opportunities as Carolina had six offensive rebounds. Zia Cooke He started with the hot handshot, hitting his first three shots.
- The defense held UConn to its fewest points in a quarter this season, eight, in the first quarter, jumping out to a 22-8 lead. The Huskies were outshot 20-9 by Carolina and had more turnovers (5) than field goals (4).
- The rebounding advantage held throughout the first half. The Gamecocks entered the locker room with a 25-13 cup lead and 16 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points.
- South Carolina finished the game doubling UConn on the boards, 49-24, highlighting a 21-6 advantage in offensive rebounds and +17 in second-chance points (22-5). The +25 rebounding margin is the second-largest in a title game in NCAA tournament history.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
The Gamecocks fly out of Minneapolis on Monday morning and will hold a Welcome Home Event outside Colonial Life Arena after returning to Columbia. Please continue to check GamecocksOnline.com and the team’s social media accounts (@GamecockWBB) for the most up-to-date information.