Last Updated 4:49 PM, April 04, 2022

South Carolina wins 2022 DI women's basketball national championship

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South Carolina vs. UConn - Women’s national championship highlights
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South Carolina wins 2022 DI women's basketball national championship

No. 1 South Carolina wins second national championship No. 1 South Carolina wins second national championship

After defeating UConn 64-49, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley walked the perimeter of the court lifting the NCAA national championship trophy over her head while a loud roar followed her around the arena like a wave. 

The Gamecocks fans raised decibels at a sold out Target Center. The fanbase has led the nation in attendance, a title their opponent used to routinely hold. Now a second national title is theirs after South Carolina ended UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s perfect record in the title game (11-1).

From opening tip to the final buzzer, the Gamecocks were in control of the Huskies and thwarted all comeback attempts. 

Destanni Henderson led all scorers with a career-high 26 points, four assists and three steals. Player of the Year Aliyah Boston put up 11 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks — securing her 30th double-double of the season. 

In the second half, Boston’s two blocks led to momentum shifts when UConn made runs to close the deficit. 

Gamecocks coach lifts trophy around the court Gamecocks coach lifts trophy around the court

South Carolina won the tough points, outrebounding the Huskies 49-24 and scoring 22 points off 21 offensive rebounds. That's the second biggest rebound disparity in an NCAA tournament game. 

The Gamecocks' defense was a well-oiled machine, stifling the UConn stars. Paige Bueckers scored a team-high 14 points, but didn’t get much production from the rest of the team, as she was the only player in double figures. 

Despite the loss, UConn's injury-riddled season finished to a national championship appearance, beating two No. 1 seeds on the way to the final game, including defending national champion Stanford. 

Before the game, Staley praised Auriemma's program for paving the way for women's basketball. On Sunday, she beat the second-winningest program in history while cementing her own. 

4:55 am, April 4, 2022

South Carolina's Dawn Staley reflects on historic moment

South Carolina's Dawn Staley wins her second national championship South Carolina's Dawn Staley wins her second national championship

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley walked up the podium with the 2022 championship net around her neck. Later she pulled out a little piece from another net — the one she cut down in 2017. 

Carolyn Peck, the first Black woman to win an NCAA basketball national championship as coach, gave Staley a snippet of her net. On Sunday, Staley became the first Black coach to win two championships. 

“The net is going to represent something, something in our game, something that will advance our game,” Staley said. “What I think is important as a Black woman and coach is the way you do it, like the example that you set for other coaches to follow.” 

The example now extends to success after defeating UConn, breaking Geno Auriemma’s 11-0 national championship game record. 

“I feel like coming into this game, the conversation was about how coach Auriemma was 11-0 in title games, but coach Staley was 1-0 and now she's 2-0,” Gamecocks star Aliyah Boston said. “I think it just shows the type of program that she's built and how great it is being a dynasty.” 

Despite what her star player and social media might say, Staley doesn’t consider her run of four Final Fours in seven years or two national championships a dynasty. 

“Just look at the tradition of UConn and what they were able to do; they're the standard," she said. "If it takes winning 11 national championships to be a dynasty, I'm probably going to fall short." 

Regardless, Staley etched her name into history. She hopes she’s not the last passing a piece of this net onto the next line of coaches.

“If I can be that ray of hope, if I can be a vessel of theirs to them being successful,” the two-time champion said. “I am a willing giver of this game.”

3:21 am, April 4, 2022

UConn reflects on falling short in national title game, overcoming challenges during the season

No. 2 UConn fell to No. 1 South Carolina in the 2022 national championship.

No. 2 UConn could not overcome the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday night with a 64-49 loss. The Huskies are now 11-1 all-time in national title games. 

Head coach Geno Auriemma talked about what has to happen to end a season with a win.

“First things first, though, you have to be really good, and you have to be really well balanced and you have to be all the things that South Carolina is. You have to have good guard play. Your big guys have to be able to dominate either at one end or the other. Then you need a little bit of luck.”

Auriemma discussed the Gamecocks' ability to rebound and dominate the paint all night. UConn was outrebounded 49-24 and the Gamecocks turned those rebounds into 22 second-chance points to UConn’s five.

“We said in the Stanford game the reason we won is because we outrebounded them and we made our free throws when they counted. We knew tonight that if we didn't hold our own on the boards that it was going to be a really bad night for us, and that's exactly what happened.”

UConn brought it within five points late in the second quarter after starting the game down 22-8. The Huskies just couldn’t find a way to hold off South Carolina’s offense. 

“We were pretty much even the rest of the time, gave ourselves a chance, cut it to five, but we just didn't have enough.”

It felt a lot of things didn’t go UConn’s way this season in the injury category. Auriemma also went on about the heart of his team and how hard they’ve worked to overcome all the obstacles this season. 

“This year was a perfect example of you plan for some things and then all of a sudden your plans get blown up.”

Paige Bueckers also discussed the way this season came to a close. She led the team with 14 points.

“Super proud of this team for how far we've come and all the adversity we've dealt with and all we've overcome to get to this point. But at UConn, it's national championship or nothing, so obviously upset, frustrated, disappointed. Just wish things could have gone different for the seniors.”

Redshirt senior Evina Westbrook looked back on her decision to come back for one last ride and what it was like to fall just short. 

“Definitely not the outcome that we wanted, but I think it was definitely over worth it for me coming back and just being with this group of girls and making the memories that we did.”

1:58 am, April 4, 2022

Boston's block leads to transition bucket

Aliyah Boston got the fourth quarter going with a huge block on Caroline Ducharme, leading to a transition layup for Destanni Henderson.

That was good for Boston’s second block and assist on the night along with Henderson’s 20th point. 

No. 1 South Carolina is still holding strong with the lead that is now out to 52-39 with less than six minutes to play.

1:46 am, April 4, 2022

South Carolina 46, UConn 37 end of third quarter

It’s going to come down to the last 10 minutes to decide this one. No. 1 South Carolina still leads No. 2 UConn, but the lead has shrunk to 46-37.

The first five minutes of the third were sluggish for the Huskies, missing all five of their shots from the field to find themselves down by 16. But a late 8-0 run in the final minutes of the quarter has made this a much closer game. 

Destanni Henderson ended the scoreless run for her squad with a layup in the final minute.

Early on, South Carolina was forcing a lot of long, empty possessions for UConn, but the Huskies’ ability to score quickly in transition showed during that run. 

The Gamecocks have done a good job of getting to the line this so far tonight, but they haven’t been able to capitalize making seven of their 12 shots (58%). UConn has just two attempts tonight and nailing one.

1:40 am, April 4, 2022

UConn showing some life, trying to make a historic comeback

No. 2 UConn battling to stay in the game No. 2 UConn battles to stay in the game

Here comes UConn, the Huskies are on 8-0 run bringing them within just six points. Caroline Ducharme and Evina Westbrook scored the Huskies’ first 3-pointers of the game. 

Dawn Staley called a quick timeout to stop the bleeding with 1:18 left in the third. 

The Huskies are showing some life getting on the ground for 50/50 balls and giving the Gamecocks a scare. 

1:28 am, April 4, 2022

Paige Bueckers' insane block

Paige Bueckers may have lost on a 50/50 ball, but she made up for it by chasing down Zia Cooke emphatically blocking her fast break attempt. 

The defensive play earned a healthy roar from the Huskies crowd that haven't had much to cheer about all night. 

Still, the Gamecocks lead the Huskies 43-29. 
 

1:07 am, April 4, 2022

Halftime: South Carolina 35, UConn 27

No. 1 South Carolina leads No. 2 UConn No. 1 South Carolina leads No. 2 UConn

The chokehold loosened slightly. No. 1 South Carolina leads No. 2 UConn by eight points. No team has ever come back to win after falling down by more than 15 points in the national championship — the Huskies were down 18. 

Early in the quarter, the Gamecocks continued to outwork the Huskies. UConn players looked gassed trying to match South Carolina’s energy, but then they found some fight. 

Paige Bueckers scored 9 points in the second after going scoreless in the first, helping close the gap to seven with a 1:05 left. Though they shot over 50% from the field they’re 0-5 from 3 compared to South Carolina’s 3-8. 

Still, the Gamecocks continue to outwork the Huskies on the glass, rebounding them 25-13 with 16 offensive rebounds. The Huskies continue to turn the ball over, four in the quarter, nine total for 11 Gamecocks points. 

Even with a single-digit deficit, the Huskies have a lot of work to do to rally against the Gamecocks. 

12:51 am, April 4, 2022

Paige Bueckers trying to start a comeback run in second quarter

Paige Beuckers has been finding her shot as of late. She went scoreless in the first quarter and is already out to seven. The Minnesota native is shooting 3-4 from the floor and 1-2 from the free throw line about halfway through the second

Bueckers is one of three Huskies to score in this quarter. Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa both have two. 

12:39 am, April 4, 2022

South Carolina 22, UConn 8 after first quarter

No. 1 South Carolina came to play. The Gamecocks dominated the boards and have a 22-8 lead over No. 2 UConn after the first 10 minutes of play. That was the least amount of points the Huskies have scored in a first quarter this season.

Zia Cooke filled up the stat sheet early with eight points and two rebounds. As a team South Carolina has really showed their physicality by being able to outrebound the Huskies 12-3 and also pick up nine second chance points in the process. 

UConn is struggling to find quality looks at the basket for the majority of the opening quarter. It’s shooting 4-9 from the field so far. The Gamecocks have frustrated the Huskies forcing four turnovers. UConn's Olivia Nelson-Ododa also got into some foul trouble at the end of the quarter with her second foul of the night

12:23 am, April 4, 2022

South Carolina's overpowering UConn early in Q1

No. 1 South Carolina overpowering No. 2 UConn

South Carolina has started the game up 11-2, forcing UConn coach Geno Auriemma to take a timeout with 6:34 left in first quarter. With arms crossed, he just stared at players walking to the bench. The Gamecocks have five offensive rebounds a little more than 3 minutes into the game.

Zia Cooke got the Gamecocks offensive starting with 4 quick points. 

11:44 pm, April 3, 2022

Starting lineups for South Carolina vs. UConn

The lineups are out and we're minutes away from tipoff. Check out the starting five for each team before tonight's championship game gets underway. The game will be televised on ESPN and you can stream it here. Stay tuned right here for more updates throughout the night.

South Carolina: 

  • Zia Cooke
  • Destanni Henderson
  • Brea Beal
  • Aliyah Boston
  • Victaria Saxton

UConn: 

  • Paige Bueckers
  • Azzi Fudd
  • Chrystin Williams 
  • Aaliyah Edwards
  • Olivia Nelson-Ododa
11:00 pm, April 3, 2022

What you need to know less than an hour from tip

Get hyped for UConn-South Carolina for the 2022 title

It’s almost time to ball. No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 UConn will put a bow on a great season with tonight’s championship game. 

The Gamecocks took care of business in the Final Four against No. 1 Louisville with a 72-59 win. The Huskies handled No. 1 Stanford by the score of 63-58 in an extremely physical game on Friday. 

Expect tonight’s game to be the same. Both teams are elite defensive squads. South Carolina is ranked third in the nation for scoring defense while UConn follows closely behind at 14. 

Scoring in the paint will be one of the toughest parts of the game as WBCA and AP Player of the Year Aliyah Boston will hold down that area for South Carolina. Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards will be tasked with going face to face with Boston. 

On the outside, South Carolina and UConn aren’t afraid to put up 3s. In the Final Four, the Gamecocks shot 17 times from beyond the arc, compared to the Huskies with 14. Expect Destanni Henderson and Zia Cooke to be the major contributors in that category for South Carolina. With UConn, Chrystin Williams and Evina Westbrook will be called upon to continue to lead from deep. 

Tonight’s title match will begin at 8 p.m. ET from the Target Center in Minneapolis. This is the second time this arena has hosted a DI women’s basketball national championship. The first one was in 1995 when UConn took down Tennessee to capture its first title. 

The game can be watched on ESPN and streamed here. 

9:59 pm, April 3, 2022

Paige Bueckers and Aliyah Boston headline national championship

Paige Bueckers and Aliyah Boston celebrate Paige Bueckers and Aliyah Boston set to face off in national championship

Sunday's national championship features some of the brightest stars in college hoops: South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston and UConn’s Paige Bueckers. 

When Bueckers was introduced at Target Center ahead Friday's Final Four, she was met with a booming cheer from usual UConn fans, but also from hometown fans in Minneapolis, where she grew up about 10 minutes away. 

"It's awesome to be back in my home state, in my backyard," Bueckers said. "It's surreal to me this is happening." 

This almost didn't happen for sophomore sensation after injuring her knee Dec. 13 which required surgery and rehab.

Before the injury she was averaging 21 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Since then her scoring average dropped below 15, but still last year's Naismith Player of Year shows flashes of her former self, something she hopes to bring to her home arena. 

"When I was a little kid, I was at the gym, at the park, I dreamt of these moments being able to play in March Madness, playing in the Final Four, the national championship game." 

Meanwhile, this year's Naismith Player and Defensive Player of the Year Aliyah Boston leads South Carolina. Boston began the weekend accepting awards, but in the end she's looking for something bigger. 

"I think thinking about Paige being Player the Year last year and me being Player the Year this year," Boston said. "I mean, that's not really the focus. The focus is just winning a national championship." 

In the Final Four, Boston was a menace almost falling just short of notching a 20/20 game. She put 23 points, 18 rebounds and 4 assists — showcasing the recognition. 

"I don't think it's a stretch to say that she might be the hardest person in America to guard," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "How do we guard her? I don't know. I'm open for suggestions."

The Huskies lost 73-57 to the Gamecocks Nov. 22 before Bueckers was injured. Even then UConn had no answer for Boston, who recorded 22 points and 15 rebounds, one of her historic 29 double-doubles this season. 

"Last year Final Four ending wasn't the way we wanted," she said. "Now looking at this third year where we have a chance at a national championship, so I'm excited to give it everything I got."

And everything she's got is a lot.

6:15 pm, April 3, 2022

3 things UConn needs to do to beat South Carolina

Geno Auriemma previews national championship match-up against South Carolina

No. 2 UConn faces off with No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday night to decide the 2022 DI women’s basketball national championship. 

UConn is on the hunt for its 12th national title and in its 11 appearances so far, the Huskies have been a perfect 11-0. This time, it's different. In all of the last championship games, the Huskies have never been a seed other than No. 1.

That being said, here are the keys to the game for UConn:

Control the paint

In the Final Four, UConn had to find a way to control the paint to outlast Stanford and their lengthy squad. The Huskies were able to limit the Cardinal’s bigs by outrebounding them 46-37. They also held the reigning champs to six second-chance points. 

Coming into the game, this was a huge question mark due to UConn losing Dorka Juhazs in the Elite Eight to a wrist injury. But, Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa stepped up big time with a combined 18 rebounds. 

It’s no secret who the Huskies will be going up against on Sunday. Aliyah Boston has been on fire all season long on both ends of the floor. In the 2022 tournament, she has put up at least 19 points in the last three games including a 22 rebound performance in the Sweet 16. 

Even head coach Geno Auriemma knows stopping Boston is a tall task.

“I don't think it's a stretch to say that she might be the hardest person in America to guard. She scores if there's one, two, three, four people on her. It doesn't matter… ​​How do we guard her? I don't know. I'm open for suggestions.” 

Make free throws

UConn has not been a great free throw team this season. It currently ranks 214th in the nation for free throw percentage. The Huskies made 69.3% of their shots from the line this season. 
In the Final Four, they stepped up nailing 16-20 (80%). In the two games prior, it wasn’t as nice going 57% and 60%. 

“As far as the free-throw shooting is concerned, I'm as shocked as anybody that they're going in because all year long we have not been a good free-throw shooting team,” said Auriemma.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Evina Westbrook and Christyn Williams have been to the line the most this season for their team with 236 of the team's 386 attempts. The three are all shooting within the range of 67-70 percent and in the last game, they made nine of their 11 attempts.

Lockdown either Destanni Henderson or Zia Cooke

Defending Aliyah Boston being as tough as it is, another part of stopping South Carolina is locking down one of its other top scorers. 

Destanni Henderson and Zia Cooke average 11.1 and 10.7 points respectively. In both of the Gamecocks' losses this season, Aliyah Boston put up at least 17 and either Henderson or Cooke reached double digits, but never all three. 

Even if UConn can achieve any of these keys on Sunday night, they’ll still have to play a perfect game and maybe have a bit of luck in order to take down South Carolina. Take it from Louisville head coach Jeff Walz after his team’s loss to the Gamecocks in the Final Four.

“If you look at the stat sheet, everything I thought we had to do, we did,” said Walz. “In these games like this, you have to get a break, and unfortunately we didn't get the breaks.”