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UConn Took Down Stanford To Earn A Matchup With South Carolina In The National Title Game

For the first time since 2016, the UConn Huskies will play for a national championship. UConn took on Stanford in the Final Four on Friday evening in Minneapolis, and in a matchup in the two winningest coaches in the sport’s history, Geno Auriemma and the Huskies came out on top over Tara VanDerveer and the Cardinal, 63-59.

The game’s first half was defined by defense, as both UConn and Stanford had to work for every single shot that they took. As a result, neither high-scoring offense was able to really get in a grove — the Huskies led after the first quarter, 12-9, and took a 27-26 lead into the locker room. While Paige Bueckers scored eight points for UConn, the story of the half was Evina Westbrook. A 30 percent three-point shooter, Westbrook came off the bench and gave the Huskies nine points on 3-for-5 shooting from deep in the first half, making herself and Bueckers the only players on the team to score more than four points in the game’s opening 20 minutes.

The Cardinal got huge performances from Cameron Brink and Haley Jones before the break — both had eight points and combined for 11 rebounds — and while they only led for 39 seconds in the entire first half, their gameplan was evident, as 10 of their 11 made baskets in the half came from inside the paint. Further, they never trailed by more than five points.

While the third quarter was much of the same, UConn started to pour it on in the fourth. While Stanford could not get anything to fall from behind the arc, the Huskies got Brink in foul trouble and were able to get a considerable edge on the glass. At one point, they managed to extend their lead to as many as eight points as Stanford struggled mightily to make anything from three.

Even when UConn went on a lengthy field goal drought of nearly five minutes, the Cardinal’s own issues to get their offense going made it hard for them to get within five. But as we’ve seen in the Tournament so many times, late in the game, a few shots started to fall for Stanford, while the Huskies got sped up just enough that the door got opened up — UConn led, 52-44, with 86 seconds left, but a 12-4 run headlined by a trio of Huskies turnovers got them within two points.

After Azzi Fudd hit a pair of free throws with 22.5 seconds left, Stanford called a timeout and got Brink a chance at the rim, which she converted.

Two more free throws, this time by Christyn Williams, put UConn up by four once again with 11 seconds remaining, which was too tall a mountain for Stanford to climb.

Bueckers led the way for the Huskies on the evening with 14 points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals, and a block, while Westbrook had 12 points and six boards, Williams had 10 points, and both Aaliyah Edwards (nine points, eight rebounds) and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (eight points, 10 rebounds) just missed double-doubles. Jones had quite the game for the Cardinal, going for 20 points with 11 rebounds, while Brink had 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and a pair of blocks.

Now, the Huskies will get a day to rest up before a national title game showdown with South Carolina. The two teams played earlier this season, with the Gamecocks coming out on top, 73-57. Sunday’s game is slated to tip at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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