The top-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the second-seeded UConn Huskies 64-49 on Sunday at Target Center in Minneapolis to capture their first NCAA women's title since 2017.
This marks South Carolina's second championship, and both have come under head coach Dawn Staley, who took over in 2008. It's been an incredibly impressive run by the Gamecocks, who also knocked off No. 1 seed Louisville in the Final Four on Friday.
As for UConn, this marks their first loss in the national championship game under head coach Geno Auriemma, who is now 11-1 in title games following the Huskies' loss to the Gamecocks.
South Carolina was paced by junior forward Aliyah Boston, who averaged a double-double in the NCAA tournament, and senior guard Destanni Henderson, both of whom proved their dominance Sunday.
Destanni Henderson, G, SC: 26 PTS, 2, REB, 4 AST, 3 STL
Paige Bueckers, G, UConn: 14 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK
Aliyah Boston, G, SC: 11 PTS, 16 REB, 3 AST, 2 BLK
Aaliyah Edwards, F, UConn: 8 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK
Zia Cooke, G, SC: 11 PTS, 5 REB
Aliyah Boston the Driving Force Behind South Carolina's Title Win
Boston has been South Carolina's best player all year, and while she finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds and three assists in Sunday's title game, she was a game-changer for the Gamecocks.
The National Player of the Year's gravity is one of her most lethal weapons. She drew defenders all night long and was often double-teamed by Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa.
That opened up the floor for guards Henderson and Zia Cooke, who led the way offensively for the Gamecocks. Henderson finished with 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting from the floor and 3-of-6 shooting from deep, while Cooke finished with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the floor.
Destanni Henderson is on another LEVEL tonight. She has a career high 24 points! <br><br>South Carolina has taken over the game.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NationalChampionship?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NationalChampionship</a> <a href="https://t.co/Flnyyq4eeb">pic.twitter.com/Flnyyq4eeb</a>
CBS Sports @CBSSports
Destanni Henderson had played 73 games in her collegiate career. She's in her fourth season.<br><br>She had never scored more than 23 points in a game.<br><br>She has poured in 26 points in tonight's NCAA National Championship Game. <a href="https://t.co/AxxqVFpfX5">pic.twitter.com/AxxqVFpfX5</a>
3Q: Our bread and butter - defense leads to offense! What a make from <a href="https://twitter.com/zia_cooke?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Zia_Cooke</a>.<br><br>ESPN: <a href="https://t.co/ytRbsfm7nx">https://t.co/ytRbsfm7nx</a><br>STATS: <a href="https://t.co/NvyoYS8DvY">https://t.co/NvyoYS8DvY</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WFinalFour?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WFinalFour</a> <a href="https://t.co/GyNsnMThCg">pic.twitter.com/GyNsnMThCg</a>
E3: Henderson gets a free throw and this pretty finish to end the scoring in the third. Ten minutes to play, it's a 46-37 lead for Carolina!<br><br>ESPN: <a href="https://t.co/ytRbsfm7nx">https://t.co/ytRbsfm7nx</a><br>STATS: <a href="https://t.co/NvyoYS8DvY">https://t.co/NvyoYS8DvY</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WFinalFour?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WFinalFour</a> <a href="https://t.co/kzdN7VPGuy">pic.twitter.com/kzdN7VPGuy</a>
4Q: We're packing in TWO <a href="https://twitter.com/dh3so3hd?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dh3so3hd</a> buckets together, she's up to 20 points for the second time this season, Gamecocks back up by double digits!<br><br>ESPN: <a href="https://t.co/ytRbsfm7nx">https://t.co/ytRbsfm7nx</a><br>STATS: <a href="https://t.co/NvyoYS8DvY">https://t.co/NvyoYS8DvY</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WFinalFour?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WFinalFour</a> <a href="https://t.co/iKiKvf30WY">pic.twitter.com/iKiKvf30WY</a>
It was Henderson's best performance of the NCAA tournament, and it would not have been possible without Boston. Boston's gravity often left Henderson open for easy buckets. For comparison, the senior guard entered Sunday's title game averaging 10.2 points per game through the tournament.
Boston's incredible rebounding skills were also on full display against the Huskies. She finished with 16 rebounds, including five offensively, which helped the Gamecocks get a number of second-chance opportunities.
Behind Sunday's performance, Boston was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
Turnovers, Lack of Rebounding the Dagger for UConn
The Huskies' frequent turnovers and lack of rebounding are what ultimately did them in Sunday night.
UConn finished with 15 turnovers and 24 rebounds. For comparison, South Carolina turned the ball over 14 times and recorded 49 rebounds, including 21 offensively.
If the Huskies had rebounded better, they might have been the ones walking off the court with the championship trophy. There really wasn't much of a size difference between the two sides either, so there was no excuse for UConn's poor rebounding.
Nelson-Ododa, a senior forward, is UConn's biggest player at 6'5", while Edwards, a sophomore forward, is 6'3". Boston, a junior forward, is South Carolina's largest player at 6'5", while Victaria Saxton stands 6'2".
It's also important to note that freshman guard Azzi Fudd and senior guard Christyn Williams were nonexistent offensively against the Gamecocks. Both players didn't have a single bucket until late in the fourth quarter, as Fudd went 1-of-3 from the floor and 1-of-2 from deep, while Williams went 1-of-7 from the floor and 0-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Again, if Fudd and Williams had hit their shots, things could have gone much differently for the Huskies.