Monday's NCAA women: UConn heads to Final Four
Bridgeport, Conn. — Everything UConn lost to graduation made another Final Four even more special for Geno Auriemma and his Huskies.
Napheesa Collier scored 28 points, Gabby Williams had 25 and the Huskies advanced to the national semifinals for the 10th straight year with a 90-52 victory against Oregon on Monday night.
“There were a lot of question marks going into the season and maybe they didn’t have any in their own minds,” Auriemma said. “They seemed to answer every single one of those questions. They deserve to be in the Final Four. They earned it.”
The Huskies’ 111th consecutive victory moved Auriemma past Pat Summitt for the most NCAA Tournament wins. Auriemma now has 113 and counting.
Next up for top-seeded UConn (36-0) is Mississippi State on Friday night in Dallas. It is just two wins away from a fifth consecutive title and 12th overall.
“It means a whole lot, especially with this group because no one thought we’d be here and we worked so hard this year,” said Collier, who earned most outstanding player of the region honors.
The Huskies jumped all over 10th-seeded Oregon (23-14), stopping its impressive run through the tourney.
Leading 6-4, UConn scored 17 straight points. Saniya Chong got the game-changing burst started with consecutive 3-pointers. Nearly 4 1/2 minutes later she capped the burst with a layup that made it 23-4.
Oregon closed to 34-21 midway through the second quarter, but UConn put the game away by scoring 15 of the final 18 points of the half.
“They’ve owned the whole month of March, they weren’t just along for the ride,” Auriemma said. “It’s theirs and that’s a huge step. That’s a big step to go from riding in the backseat on a trip you’re going to, to all of a sudden you’re in charge of driving the bus you’re responsible for getting us there.”
With Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson gone to the WNBA, UConn has a new trio leading the way. Collier and fellow sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson were honored as AP All-Americans on Monday, with Williams, a junior, making the second team.
Oregon also has a bright future. Coach Kelly Graves’ team is led by outstanding freshmen Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Mallory McGwire. The trio averaged 36.8 points combined this season. Ionescu led the way against UConn with 15 points.
The Ducklings upset seventh-seeded Temple, No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Maryland to get to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
“I just think all of it is part of the process,” Graves said. “A run like this will make it easier to motivate our team in the offseason. Our goal is to host the first and second round and not to make two trips across the country. Those things will really help us and give these guys confidence that they can win in the tournament.”
Oregon had 22 turnovers, including 17 in the first half, that led to 38 points for the Huskies.
“The turnovers doomed us right from the get-go,” Graves said. “That defensive pressure set the tone.”
South Carolina 71, Florida State 64: Kaela Davis scored 23 and A’ja Wilson added 16 and top-seeded South Carolina held off No. 3 seed Florida State in a furious finish.
Davis scored immediately off the tip and again on a timely, brilliant left-handed drive with 1:42 to go.
Allisha Gray drove her way to 11 points for South Carolina (31-4) — and Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are back in the Final Four for the first time since 2015 still chasing the program’s first NCAA championship.
Leticia Romero cut the South Carolina lead to five, 65-60, on a driving jumper with 3:51 left. Then Brittany Brown’s steal and layup at 3:25 made it 65-62, but the Seminoles wouldn’t get closer.
South Carolina has both basketball teams in the Final Four. The men’s program reached its first Final Four with a stunning upset of Florida on Sunday that sent the women screaming in delight at Stockton Arena all the way across the country from the victory at Madison Square Garden.
After the buzzer sounded, the Gamecocks hustled together for a team hug, then danced at midcourt wearing T-shirts and hats.
Imani Wright’s basket with 7:12 to play capped a 6-0 burst and pulled Florida State within 60-53, then Gray answered. Romero knocked down a 3 moments later and it was a six-point game.
Tyasha Harris added 16 points for South Carolina, which made things uncomfortable all game for Florida State’s Spanish star, Romero. She was limited to 6-for-23 shooting for 16 points, six assists and six rebounds as Florida State fell short once more of the program’s first Final Four.
Davis, daughter of former NBA player Antonio Davis, delivered all day on both ends. She shot 10 for 15 and is headed to her Final Four debut on Friday against Stanford. She transferred from Georgia Tech for the chance to do something special.
Two power programs from the South that scrimmaged together the past two preseasons faced off way out West in Northern California, a rematch of South Carolina’s six-point Elite Eight win against the Seminoles two years ago in Greensboro.
This one was plenty entertaining, too — from big plays to a nail-biting final few minutes.
After Wright’s jumper at the 4:23 mark made it 30-27, South Carolina closed the half with a 10-2 spurt.
Gray made a pair of pretty drives to key a late second-quarter run during which South Carolina hit five of seven shots as the Seminoles took a 40-29 lead into halftime.
The game with no West Coast team drew 3,134.
■Stanford 76, Notre Dame 75
■ Mississippi State 94, Baylor 85 (OT)
■ Connecticut 90, Oregon 52
■ South Carolina 71, Florida State 64
At American Airlines
■ Connecticut (36-0) vs. Mississippi State (33-4), TBA, ESPN2
■ South Carolina (31-4) vs. Stanford (32-6), TBA, ESPN2
■Championship, 6, ESPN