South Carolina Gamecocks go wire to wire against UConn Huskies to win second national championship

MINNEAPOLIS — A year after a heartbreaking Final Four loss to eventual champion Stanford, No. 1 South Carolina found redemption, winning the program’s second national championship with a 64-49 victory over the No. 1 seed. UConn series on Sunday at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

The Gamecocks, who went 14-0 against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25 this season, became the eighth program to win multiple national titles in NCAA women’s basketball history, joining UConn (11 ), Tennessee (8), Stanford (3), Baylor (3), Notre Dame (2), USC (2) and Louisiana Tech (2).

South Carolina is also the 12th team to go wire-to-wire as No. 1 in the AP Poll and win it all.

South Carolina’s 35 wins are the most in a single season in program history; seven of them were above national championship-winning coaches, and two were above UConn’s Geno Auriemma, as the Gamecocks had already beaten the Huskies 73-57 on Nov. 22 in the Bahamas.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley is also 2-0 in NCAA National Championship games after leading her team past Mississippi State for the 2017 title.

After going 11-0 in his previous domestic league appearances, Auriemma suffered his first defeat in the title match.

The Huskies, whose 11 titles are tied for the most in Division I basketball, are still in the hunt for their first title since winning four consecutive titles from 2013 to 2016. Their five straight NCAA Tournaments without championship are the longest since the program. winning his first title in 1995.

National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston – also named Final Four MVP – finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds as the Gamecocks demolished the Huskies on the boards 49-24. Guard Destanni Henderson came out with a career-high 26 points to go along with four assists, two rebounds and a tough defensive effort against 2020-21 National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers.

Henderson’s 3 22 seconds in Sunday’s game gave the Gamecocks a lead they would not relinquish.

South Carolina started hot, scoring 13 of the game’s first 15 points and jumping to a 30-12 advantage early in the second quarter on a Henderson 3. UConn eventually settled in, using a 15-5 run to cut the deficit to as little as seven, then 35-27 at halftime. The top-ranked 2021 rookie, Azzi Fudd, played just five minutes in the first half for UConn after dealing with a stomach bug before the game.

South Carolina started early again after the break, dropping 16 points midway through the third after a Zia Cooke layup. Then the Huskies went on a 10-0 run – including their first 3 of the game – to make it 43-37. The Gamecocks scored the last three points of the frame, and six of the first eight of the fourth, to cushion their lead.

Fudd and Bueckers’ 3s made it a 10-point game with 3:18 left, but the Huskies couldn’t come close.