No. 3 Arizona Stuns Paige Bueckers, No. 1 UConn to Reach National Title Game

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIIApril 3, 2021

Arizona guard Aari McDonald (2) celebrates with teammate guard Helena Pueyo (13) in front of Connecticut forward Aaliyah Edwards after getting fouled during the second half of a women's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game Friday, April 2, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

The No. 3 Arizona Wildcats pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year, defeating No. 1 UConn and Paige Bueckers, 69-59, in the Final Four. 

Arizona Women's Basketball @ArizonaWBB

SURVIVE AND ADVANCE https://t.co/FgmYeph0BD

UConn (28-2) picks up just its second loss of the season, having gone undefeated since a three-point defeat to No. 19 Arkansas in late January. The program was looking to win a national championship for the first time since 2016.

Now it's the Wildcats moving on to the title game for the first time in program history after making its Final Four debut on Friday. 

Aari McDonald dominated from start to finish to hand UConn its fourth straight loss in the Final Four and keep the title drought alive in Connecticut going for at least another year.

Arizona now faces No. 1 Stanford on Sunday night for the championship.

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

"Stop leaving us out. Stop counting us out." 🗣 Adia Barnes and Aari McDonald lead @ArizonaWBB to the #ncaaW national championship game! #WFinalFour | @espnW https://t.co/VuCaFZbCUD

Notable Performers

Aari McDonald, G, Arizona Wildcats: 26 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals

Trinity Baptiste, F, Arizona Wildcats: 7 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block

Paige Bueckers, G, UConn Huskies: 18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists 

Christyn Williams, G, UConn Huskies: 20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals 


Aari Goes Off on Huskies

UConn freshman Paige Bueckers was unquestionably the most hyped player heading into the Final Four. Arizona's Aari McDonald made sure the Huskies guard didn't live up to it. In fact, McDonald supplanted Bueckers early on as the player to watch.

The senior guard was absolutely electric. 

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

Aari McDonald was on 🔥 in the first half: 🔴 15 Pts 🔴 2 Reb 🔴 2 Stl @ArizonaWBB leads UConn by 10 at the half. #WFinalFour https://t.co/Iz8sflpJW5

ESPN @espn

AARI KIDDING?!?! She can't miss. #WFinalFour https://t.co/NSCyQUHuTr

McDonald went off for 15 points in the first half with four three-pointers as the Wildcats had the Huskies on their heels early on. UConn never led at any point on Friday. McDonald was a large reason why.

Even when UConn found a way to slow her down in the third quarter, there was little the Huskies could do to keep her off the scoresheet. After posting just two points in the third, McDonald came right back with nine more in the fourth quarter to help close out a win against a flailing Huskies team. 

ESPN @espn

Aari McDonald is BALLING. WNBA stars are taking notice. #WFinalFour | @espnW https://t.co/KuK1EDd90r

It wasn't just that the Wildcats weren't supposed to be in this position—building a 14-point lead in the first half after entering the game as 14-point underdogs, per ESPN—it's that UConn is almost never in this position. Head coach Geno Auriemma's clubs are known for their discipline and defense but neither paid off on Friday. 

As McDonald delivered dagger after dagger, all the Huskies could do was intentionally foul and try to extend the game. It didn't work. 

Arizona's incredible run continues and the Huskies head home without a title after a magnificent season once again.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Arizona heads into halftime with a 32-22 lead over UConn. UConn trailed for 19:07 in the first half tonight. The Huskies trailed for 13:22 total in their first four tournament games. https://t.co/ioyvhV70Bo


Bueckers, Huskies Bounced Again

It might not be long before UConn is hoisting another national title trophy again, but it'll at least be another year.

A program built by Auriemma that once had pundits questioning if any college team could compete with them has seen its armor significantly damaged. Auriemma is established enough that it's not worth questioning if UConn will be back. It's more a matter of when.

With Bueckers in the program, the answer is more than likely soon. 

Alexa Philippou @alexaphilippou

Geno says he can't say what the players' mindset was going into the game, but added: "We have a very immature group. Not just young... When we're high and we're on top of the world, we think everything's great. When things don't go our way, there's a pouting about us."

The Minnesota native became just the fifth freshman in women's basketball history to notch at least 100 points in an NCAA tournament, according to ESPN, joining Tamika Catchings, Cheryl Miller, Breanna Stewart and Clarissa Davis. This is only the start of what's likely to become an epic career.

But it was a rather forgetful night for the Huskies overall. 

espnW @espnW

And-1! That was tough 😤 https://t.co/FhXudXB4sm

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

With Stanford and Arizona set to meet, it will mark the first women's national championship game featuring two schools west of the Mississippi River since 1986 (Texas def. USC). https://t.co/a8JUrwG0Li

UConn shot just 35.7 percent from the field and struggled mightily getting to the rim. With 3:22 left to play, the Huskies made just four of their 19 layup attempts and made five three-pointers on the night total. That wasn't going to cut it against an Arizona club carrying all the momentum. 

The Huskies couldn't shoot themselves back into the game late and Arizona wasn't going to be baited into mistakes. 


What's Next

The NCAA women's tournament crowns its champion on Sunday night when Arizona and Stanford meet in San Antonio at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.