Staley leads South Carolina over UConn for second NCAA title

South Carolina’s Laeticia Amihere shoots in excess of UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards all through the initial half of a school basketball game in the ultimate round of the Women’s Closing Four NCAA event Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photograph/Charlie Neibergall)

AP

Dawn Staley hoisted the championship trophy substantial, strutted about the court and stopped for a quick victory dance. She handed more than the hardware to South Carolina’s university student band, then headed back to midcourt for far more merriment.

The Gamecocks hit all the proper notes this period, and they completed with a masterpiece.

Staley’s crew buttoned up on protection and dominated on the glass, beating UConn 64-49 on Sunday evening to conclude the Huskies’ undefeated streak in title games. Destanni Henderson scored a profession-large 26 details, Aliyah Boston included 11 factors and 16 rebounds, and the Gamecocks handed Geno Auriemma’s Huskies their to start with loss in 12 NCAA title games.

“We played each individual possession like it was our final possession,” mentioned Staley, the initially Black men’s or women’s coach with two Division I titles. “They ended up decided to be champions now.”

A calendar year in the past, South Carolina misplaced in the Remaining 4 when Boston missed a layup before the buzzer.

“Honestly, I have been contemplating about this because very last season. Anyone had a picture of me crying,” claimed Boston, who was the Most Superb Player of the Closing Four. “Today, we’re national champions and I’m in tears.”

With Staley contacting the shots in a Louis Vuitton letterman jacket, South Carolina took UConn to college on the boards and capped a wire-to-wire operate as the No. 1 team in the region in The Affiliated Push poll. The Gamecocks also received the championship in 2017 with A’ja Wilson main the way.

This time it was Boston — the AP Player of the Yr — and her fellow South Carolina publish players who dominated on the game’s largest stage. The Gamecocks outrebounded UConn 49-24, like a 21-6 advantage on offensive boards.

“We knew tonight that if we didn’t keep our very own on the boards, that it was going to be a truly lousy night time for us,,” Auriemma reported. “And that’s precisely what occurred.”

They also clamped down on star Paige Bueckers and the Huskies on protection, just like they did all season lengthy.

“They deserved it 100%,” Auriemma said. “They were the very best crew all yr.”

It was South Carolina’s night from the begin. The Gamecocks (35-2) jumped to an 11-2 direct, grabbing just about each individual rebound on the two finishes of the ground. They led to 22-8 following 1 quarter a lot to the delight of their supporters, who produced the trip to Minneapolis to be portion of the sellout crowd.

UConn (30-6) trailed by 16 in the 2nd quarter before Bueckers, a Minnesota native, bought going. Just after acquiring just a single shot in the initially quarter, she scored nine factors in the 2nd to get the Huskies inside of 35-27 at the fifty percent. She concluded with 14.

An 8-2 operate to commence the third quarter place South Carolina up 43-29 before the Huskies finally commenced connecting from at the rear of the arc. UConn missed its 1st 8 3-stage attempts until eventually Caroline Ducharme built a person from the wing and Evina Westbrook adopted with another to get the Huskies within just 43-37.

Which is as near as they could get due to the fact of Henderson.

The senior guard had a three-level enjoy to shut the third quarter and then had the team’s to start with 4 details in the fourth to restore the double-digit direct. The Huskies couldn’t recuperate.

“My teammates believed in me after all over again. We have been operating so difficult because Working day 1, and it finally paid off, all my tricky do the job, all my concentration,” Henderson stated. “Me trusting the method. Me trusting God. She just set me in a situation just to be terrific, and now, we countrywide champions.”

This was UConn’s initial vacation to the championship match because 2016, when the Huskies won the past of 4 straight titles. Because then, the group has experienced heartbreaking defeats in the nationwide semifinals, shedding twice in overtime, right before keeping off Stanford on Friday night. The Huskies were being trying to acquire their 12th title in the same metropolis they received their initial one particular in 1995.

Auriemma explained Saturday that when his staff experienced won every single of its 11 titles, the Huskies entered the video game as the far better workforce. They absolutely weren’t on Sunday.

“We just didn’t have ample,” he reported. “They had been just much too superior for us.”

It experienced been a person of the most complicated seasons of Auriemma’s Corridor of Fame career. UConn overcame dropping eight gamers for at the very least two games with injuries or disease, such as Bueckers, who missed approximately a few months with a remaining knee personal injury suffered in early December. She arrived again in late February but wasn’t at the exact same degree that acquired her AP Player of the 12 months as a freshman past season.

Protection WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS

The Gamecocks have been stalwarts on protection all season extensive, ranking 3rd nationally with 50.5 points permitted per video game. They ended up even sharper in the NCAA Event, keeping opponents to 44.8 factors coming into Sunday’s finale.

Henderson had three steals, Boston blocked two pictures and South Carolina pressured 15 turnovers. The Gamecocks’ in addition-25 rebounding margin was the 2nd major at any time in a title recreation.

Huge Photograph

UConn: The Huskies get rid of three seniors in Christyn Williams, Westbrook and Olivia Nelson-Ododa but nevertheless have a stable team again led by Bueckers and freshman Azzi Fudd. If the Huskies stay balanced, they’ll have a excellent shot to contend for upcoming year’s title.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks lose Henderson and Victaria Saxton but have all the expertise to repeat as champions.

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Far more AP protection of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-university-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Leading25