After enduring one of the most challenging seasons in the Hall of Fame coach’s career, Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies will be back in the NCAA title games for the first time since 2006.
Paige Bueckers scored 14 point and UConn won the national championship with a 63 to58 victory over Stanford on Friday night.
Auriemma stated that while we didn’t play up to our offensive potential, we still did what was necessary. “We won big. This group is amazing. I don’t know much more than what we have already said. It’s quite remarkable, to be truthful with you.”
On Sunday night, the Huskies will take on South Carolina in the national championship. In the first round of the national semifinals, the Gamecocks defeated Louisville 72 to 59. In November, UConn and South Carolina met. The Gamecocks won with a strong fourth quarter.
This is UConn’s first trip in the championship game since 2016, when they won their fourth consecutive title. The team has been beaten twice in overtime and suffered heartbreaking losses in the national semifinals.
Auriemma stated that she has lost in other games and it took her a while to overcome the losses in this game. “This one, I didn’t expect it would take so long since we gave everything we had. It might not have been enough. Stanford didn’t have all its best.
UConn (30-5), seeking its 12th National Championship, the Huskies are looking for their first NCAA title.
“We know that everyone in the world doesn’t believe we’re going to win. So we are like, we might just prove everyone wrong and prove ourselves right. Bueckers stated that there is one more game and they are not satisfied. “We are just trying to win the national championship, and we’re not satisfied with this. It’s our last game of season, so there’s nothing left.”
To reach the finals, they had to work hard. With 1:26 remaining, Stanford led by 52 to 44. A few costly UConn turnovers helped Stanford rally.
Cameron Brink’s 18.4 second layup brought the Cardinal within 60-58. UConn managed to clock seven seconds before Christyn Williams fouled with 11 seconds remaining. To restore a lead of two possessions, the senior guard calmly made both free throws.
With 5.4 seconds remaining, Ashten Prechtel missed a hard-fought 3-pointer from the wings. The Huskies won the game.
Haley Jones was the Cardinal’s (32-4) leader with 20 points.
Tara VanDerveer, Stanford coach, stated that “We didn’t play very well tonight.” “We struggled to run our offense. We did some things that were self-inflicted. It was disappointing. Nevertheless, our defense was very strong.”
After overcoming eight players who had to miss at least two games due to injury or illness this season, the Huskies advanced into the title game. This included Bueckers who was forced to sit out nearly three months because of a left knee injury sustained in December.
Bueckers began to grimace in the fourth quarter after she fell hard trying to rebound. After a short time, she left the game and seemed to be checking on her knee every time she touched the floor. After the game, she said that she was fine.
This was the latest meeting on the biggest stage between Hall of Fame coaches. They are currently first and second on women’s basketball’s all-time wins lists. The Huskies won the national semifinals in Minneapolis 27 years ago, when their two teams met. They won their first title the following year.
It was slow to start, as neither team could really find their shooting touch. UConn led 12-9 at the end of one quarter, and was leading 27-26 at halftime. In the first 20 minutes, both teams shot 36% (23 shots for 64).
Lexie Hull was forced to leave the game several times during the first quarter due to a bloody nose. After being fouled on a shot, she left the game in the first quarter. Stanford could not get her blood clots cleared up so Anna Wilson made the free throws. Hull returned to the game with gauze in her left nostril and had to leave once more just before halftime, when she started bleeding again. She continued to play the second half of the game without any further problems.
Bueckers, a native of Minneapolis who grew up just 10 miles away from Minneapolis, made the game her homecoming. In high school, she played in the Target Center state tournament several times.
UConn post Dorka Jughaz flew in to her team just two days after her surgery for her fractured left wrist. The injury occurred in Monday’s Huskies double-OT win over N.C. State. Juhasz was covered in sweats and had her arm in a sling as she sat down on the bench.