Connecticut, South Carolina to play for women’s national title

UConn cheerleaders celebrate after a college basketball game against Stanford in the semifinal round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament Friday, April 1, 2022, in Minneapolis. UConn won 63-58 to advance to the finals. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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UConn cheerleaders celebrate after a college basketball game against Stanford in the semifinal round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament Friday, April 1, 2022, in Minneapolis. UConn won 63-58 to advance to the finals. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Credit: AP

Paige Bueckers scored 14 points and UConn advanced to the national championship game with a 63-58 win over defending champion Stanford on Friday night in Minneapolis.

The Huskies will face South Carolina for the national championship on Sunday night. The Gamecocks beat the Louisville Cardinals 72-59 in the first game of the Final Four.

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It's UConn's first trip to the championship game since 2016, when the Huskies won the last of four straight championships. Since then, the team has suffered heartbreaking defeats in the national semifinals, losing twice in overtime.

UConn (30-5) will be seeking its 12th national championship, and the Huskies have never lost in an NCAA title game.

They had to work to get to the finals. Leading by 52-44 with 1:26 left, Stanford made a furious rally thanks to a few costly UConn turnovers.

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UConn's Aaliyah Edwards gets past Stanford's Lexie Hull during the second half of a college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament Friday, April 1, 2022, in Minneapolis. UConn won 63-58 to advance to the finals. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Credit: AP

UConn's Aaliyah Edwards gets past Stanford's Lexie Hull during the second half of a college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament Friday, April 1, 2022, in Minneapolis. UConn won 63-58 to advance to the finals. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
UConn's Aaliyah Edwards gets past Stanford's Lexie Hull during the second half of a college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament Friday, April 1, 2022, in Minneapolis. UConn won 63-58 to advance to the finals. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Cameron Brink's layup with 18.4 seconds left got the Cardinal within 60-58. UConn was able to work seven seconds off the clock before Christyn Williams was fouled with 11 seconds left. The senior guard calmly swished both free throws to restore a two-possession lead.

Ashten Prechtel completely missed a tough contested 3-pointer from the wing with 5.4 seconds left and the Huskies held on for the win.

Boston leads South Carolina

Aliyah Boston took over after halftime and finished with 23 points and 18 rebounds to back up her AP National Player of the Year award, carrying South Carolina to the NCAA championship game with a 72-59 victory over Louisville in Minneapolis.

“You see happy tears, happy tears, right now,” Boston said in her postgame TV interview. “I’m just thanking God we have one more game.”

Brea Beal matched her season high with 12 points and helped hold Cardinals star Hailey Van Lith to nine points on 4-for-11 shooting as the Gamecocks (34-2) delivered another stifling defensive performance and advanced to meet Connecticut on Sunday night.

“Life in general, it’s going to throw tests at you. You’re going to have to pass the tests or you’re going to have to retake them,” said coach Dawn Staley, who will try to win her second national championship with South Carolina eight months after the Hall of Famer led the U.S. team to a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics.

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South Carolina's Aliyah Boston cheers from the bench in the final seconds of the second half of a college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament Friday, April 1, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Credit: AP

South Carolina's Aliyah Boston cheers from the bench in the final seconds of the second half of a college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament Friday, April 1, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Credit: AP

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South Carolina's Aliyah Boston cheers from the bench in the final seconds of the second half of a college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament Friday, April 1, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Destanni Henderson scored 11 points with 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range for South Carolina, which had a 19-5 assists advantage and improved to 13-0 this season against AP-ranked opponents.

Emily Engstler led Louisville with 18 points and nine rebounds as the Cardinals went 1 for 8 from 3-point range and were never able to find a rhythm in the half court against the No. 1 overall seed in this tournament.

South Carolina, which won it all in 2017, was ousted in the semifinals last season by one point to eventual champion Stanford when Boston’s put-back attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer. The 6-foot-5 junior from the U.S. Virgin Islands has bounced right back a year later, and the Gamecocks have followed her lead.

“We knew that were going to be tested, and this is the hump that we need to get over,” Boston said.

Kianna Smith and Olivia Cochran each scored 14 points for the Cardinals (29-5), who were the only team in this Final Four without an NCAA championship in their trophy case. This was the program’s fourth trip to the national semifinals in coach Jeff Walz’s 15 seasons.