Dawn Staley and South Carolina bolstered their defense and won their second national championship, strangling UConn for a 64-49 win Sunday night, ending the Huskies’ unbeaten streak in title fights.
Destanni Henderson scored a career-high 26 points, Aliyah Boston added 11 points and 16 rebounds, and the Gamecocks handed Geno Auriemma’s Huskies their first loss in 12 NCAA titles.
With Staley calling the photos in a $5,000 letterman jacket, South Carolina took UConn to the school across the board and capped the rope-to-string run as the No. 1 team in the country. Associated Press poll. The Gamecocks also won the championship in 2017 with A’ja Wilson leading the way.
This time it was Boston – AP Player of the Year – and her other South Carolina card players dominated on the game’s biggest stage. Gamecocks overcame UConn by 25 points, including a 21-6 advantage on attacking tables. They also hold back star Paige Bueckers and Huskies in defence, the same way they did all season.
It was South Carolina’s night from the start. The Gamecocks (35-2) took the lead 11-2, claiming nearly every rebound at both ends of the field. They took a 22-8 lead after a quarter of a score to the delight of their loyal fans, who made the trip to Minneapolis to be part of the ticketing crowd.
UConn (30-6) ranked 16th in the second quarter before the Bueckers, a Minnesota native, started. After having only one shot in the first inning, she scored nine points in the second to take down the Huskies in round 35-27 in the first half. She finished with 14.
An 8-2 run to start the third quarter brought South Carolina to 43-29 before the Huskies finally began connecting from behind the arc. UConn missed the first eight 3-pointer attempts until Caroline Ducharme hit a ball from the wing and Evina Westbrook followed with another to put the Huskies in the 43-37 round.
That’s as close as they can get because of Henderson.
The senior keeper played three points to end the third inning and then took the team’s first four points in the fourth to restore a double-digit lead, and the Huskies failed to recover.