MINNEAPOLIS – One year after a heartbreaking loss in the Final Four to eventual champion Stanford, no. 1-seed South Carolina found redemption, earning the program’s second national championship with a 64-49 victory over 2-seed UConn on Sunday at Minneapolis’ Target Center.
The Gamecocks, who went 14-0 up 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 35 wins are the most in a single season in program history; seven of them were over national championship winning coaches, and two were over UConn’s Geno Auriemma, as the Gamecocks beat the Huskies 73-57 on Nov. 22 in the Bahamas.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley is also now 2-0 in NCAA national championship games after leading her team past Mississippi State for the 2017 title.
In UConn’s first national title game since 2016, Huskies coach Geno Auriemma picked up his first loss in the championship game after winning all of his first 11 appearances. The Huskies, whose 11 titles are tied for most in Division I basketball, are still looking for their first title since taking home four straight from 2013-16. Their five-tournament streak without a championship is the longest the program has experienced since earning its first title in 1995.
National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds, allowing the Gamecocks to beat the Huskies 49-24 on the boards. Guards Destanni Henderson came out with a career-high 26 points to go along with four assists, two rebounds and solid defense on 2020-21 national player of the year Paige Bueckers.
Henderson’s 3 22 seconds into the game gave the Gamecocks a lead they would never give up the rest of the way.
South Carolina started hot, scoring 13 of the first 15 points of the game and jumped out to a 30-12 advantage early in the second quarter of a Henderson 3. UConn put him home, with a 15-5 run to reduce the deficit to as little as seven and then 35-27 for rest. Top ranking 2021 recruits Azzi Fudd played just five minutes in the first half for UConn after dealing with a stomach bug after the game.
South Carolina went once again early after the break, pulling back with 16 halves the third of a Cooke lineup. Then the Huskies rattled a 10-0 run, with their first 3s of the game, to make it a 43-37 affair. The Gamecocks scored the last three points of the frame, and six of the first eight of the fourth, to lift their lead. Fudd and Bueckers’ 3s made it a 10-point game with 3:18 left, but they could not get any closer.