MINNEAPOLIS—It was a 40-minute championship game, yeah.
But if South Carolina set out on Sunday to show that the NCAA title could win in the first four minutes of competition, even against tough, feisty, and unhinged Connecticut, consider the hypothesis that has been stress-tested and proven at the sport’s greatest stage.
Defeat forms will subside at certain moments, but the Gamecocks eventually defeated the Huskies with ease, 64-49, to win their second National Championship in their history.
The main problem UConn had on a night full of them was that there was almost no time to fight a fight that never seemed so fair.
By the early time of the evening, not even after three-and-a-half minutes of play, South Carolina was leading with nine points and baskets from four novice players. He had 7 points in the second chance and 8 rebounds. UConn had a lone throwing mode, and aside from the block, there’s not much he’d like to see again.
It was an early and sure grab for the glory that UConn has always — always — cultivated in the National Championship games, an attack so stunning and setting the tone that basketball fans inside Target Center would have been forgiven for questioning whether they paid good money to get involved in a championship round contest. First in Columbia, South Carolina
Instead, they saw South Carolina win its second title in six seasons. Under coach Dawn Staley, who took over at Columbia in 2008 and on Sunday became the first coach to beat UConn’s Geno Auriemma in a national championship game, the Gamecocks have transformed from a mid-range program to a marquee program that has become a post-season mainstay and destination for esteemed recruits like anywhere in the nation.
And that was before Sunday’s show in Minneapolis.
But South Carolina, unlike injury-prone Ocon, was the favorite to make it to the championship game and claim the title. Gamecocks opened the season #1 in an Associated Press poll, a place they never gave up, with a roster of five returning starters and 11 returning crafters.
Alia Boston, the 6-foot-5 young striker from the US Virgin Islands, was the pivot from the start, a single hardwoods woman with two weaknesses as a career average, and by the end of the season, she had heard her perhaps as “America’s toughest person to guard” , as Orima marveled on Saturday.
“It records if there’s one, two, three, four people,” Orima said. “It doesn’t matter. She is able to carve out the space she wants. She gets the ball over the edge whenever she wants. She bounces whatever ball goes next. She just has talent.”
She had talent around her. Junior goalkeeper Dia Cook has arrived in Minneapolis with three 20-point games this season. Bria Bell has established herself as one of the most dangerous defenders in women’s basketball. Destiny Henderson was an abnormally fast senior guard who was among the Auxiliary Leaders of the Southeastern Conference, and Victoria Saxton, a striker from Rome, J.A. , He starred in the boards and in shooting shots.
They only lost twice — by 1 in overtime in Missouri on December 30, and by 2 to Kentucky in a SEC Championship game — before breaking into the NCAA Championship. Entering the game on Sunday, two days after every South Carolina player scored double-digit games in the Final Four against Louisville, the Gamecocks averaged about 70 points per game, putting their rivals under 45 and dominating off-board play. . , with a rebound margin for the championship plus -19.4, which is the best in the field.
They were also exceptional at keeping opponents on single-digit totals per quarter. Entering Sunday’s game, the Gamecocks did it 39 times. The husky was an unlikely victim of the 40th edition. But they were there after the first, after the Gamecocks managed more than twice as many shots and collected four times as many rebounds.
Six South Carolina players scored in the first. Paige Bueckers, the extraordinary sophomore guard at UConn, could not get a point, and the Huskies finished the quarter 14 behind.
The Husky’s attack fell further by the second, with UConn’s recoil improving sharply and the Buicks scoring 9 in the period. And while Boston played a big part in the quarter, Ocon kept her cool. The South Carolina advantage, made possible by their overwhelming drive and taking advantage of the second chances of the night, fell to 8 by half.
Gamecocks will push their lead the most in third place. But the match intensified when South Carolina’s scoring went into a dry run of more than four minutes.
However, the Bakers opened a 10-point run for Husky with the jump, part of an effort that included 14 points and 6 rebounds on the night. When Evina Westbrook brought UConn’s margin to 6 with a 3, the team’s second successful shot from behind the arc in 30 seconds, the goal post echoed as if Connecticut had put up a flag in the middle.
But Henderson, who scored the evening’s first points for South Carolina and easily led her team’s scoring on Sunday with 26 points, pushed the difference to 9 points early in the fourth quarter. Soon, Henderson and Saxton used a succession of throwbacks and free throws to rebuild the Gamecocks’ two-digit bullets.
On Saturday, Henderson had preached how South Carolina would simply need to “listen to and execute our game plan.” She talked about how “a great game, great 40 minutes” can be.
For the Gamecocks, perhaps aside from 22 seconds in the beginning when they were just hooked up, it was just that. All Auriemma can do, after all this time, is stand on the sidelines, arms crossed.
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