UConn women sail past Dawn Staley's Gamecocks to advance to Final Four

NCAA South Carolina Connecticut Basketball
Connecticut’s Gabby Williams (center) celebrates with teammates after their victory over South Carolina.

ALBANY, N.Y. — There’s usually little suspense over the outcome of games when the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team takes the court.

If there’s any suspense at all, it’s just how the Huskies will get the job done.

On Monday night, it was an early air attack keyed by Crystal Dangerfield with five three-pointers to carry Connecticut to a lopsided 94-65 victory over second-seeded South Carolina in the NCAA tournament’s Albany Regional at the Times Union Center.

Connecticut never trailed and the Huskies built a 76-47 lead after three quarters before the sides played an even fourth quarter, with each scoring 18 points.
For the Huskies, it’s on to Columbus, Ohio, where they will play Notre Dame in the women’s Final Four.

In the process, the one-year rule by Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks is over and so is the collegiate career of A’ja Wilson, the consensus national player of the year.

UConn (36-0) has yet to lose to the Gamecocks with seven wins, six of which are against Philly native Staley.

“UConn makes you pay,” Staley said. “You’ve got to pick your poison. If you dig in too much to help in the paint, they are going to kill you on the outside. If you overplay on the outside, you know, they are going to go back-door you for wide open layups.

“Obviously, we didn’t have enough to compete in the way we would have liked to, but now all is well in women’s basketball.”

Wilson finished with game highs of 27 points and eight rebounds, while Alexis Jennings had 15 points for a South Carolina team that shot 50 percent from the field, but those statistics paled in the wake of the UConn onslaught.

For example, UConn was 12-for-20 from beyond the arc, while South Carolina was a mere 1-for-7. The Huskies also moved the ball around efficiently with 25 assists compared with just 10 by the Gamecocks.

Staley is now likely to spend a good deal of time in the offseason coaching the USA team in the FIBA World Championships. Meanwhile, Wilson now moves on to a promising career in the WNBA, where she is favored to be the No. 1 draft pick next month.

As for UConn, the records keep coming. The Huskies are expected to return to the top of the sport after losing at the buzzer in overtime in the national semifinals a year ago.

That setback snapped an all-time streak of 111 triumphs. It became a mere bump as the Huskies zipped through the regular season, where they were once again unbeaten for the third straight time and 10th overall.

“It’s an opportunity to go back to where we felt like we didn’t really give our best effort,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “We lost to a really good team, but it happened in a way that was really, really disappointing, and I know that we were really anxious to go back and put ourselves in that same situation, and see how much we’ve changed since last year.”

Auriemma, like Staley growing up in Philadelphia, who already owns 11 NCAA titles, added a new mark by becoming the only Division I men’s or women’s coach to reach a Final Four 19 times.

A crowd of 9,522 mostly dominated by UConn fans was in the house to make the two-day attendance 20,186.
Gabby Williams, voted the most outstanding player of the tourney, had 23 points for the Huskies. Dangerfield had 21 and six assists.

Spokane Regional

Notre Dame 84, Oregon 74 — Kathryn Westbeld scored 20 points and Arike Ogunbowale added 19 and the Fighting Irish (33-3) held off the Ducks to reach the Final Four, where they will take on Connecticut. This is the eighth time Notre Dame has reached the Final Four under coach Muffet McGraw.
Sabrina Ionescu had 26 points to lead Oregon, which was seeking its first berth in the national semifinals.