(WINDSOR, ON) – Last night, the dominant No. 1 seed University of Connecticut Huskies basketball team toppled the No. 2 South Carolina Gamecocks, 94-65, at the Albany Regional, to fill the third seat in the Women’s NCAA Final-Four.
Meanwhile, in Monday night’s second featured game at the Spokane Regional, the No. 1 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (32-3) knocked off the Oregon Ducks (33-4), 84-74, to fill the fourth and final seat.
In slapping down the Southeastern Conference’s Gamecocks with a vengeance, the incredible undefeated Huskies (36-0) easily defeated last year’s national champs. The win earned them their 11th straight trip to the big dance, and 19th overall, surpassing the record of 18 set by the University of Tennessee.
It is notable that the Huskies poured in a ridiculous 140 points to 52, in their win over St Francis during the first round of the tournament. In their 30-point quarter-final victory over the Garnet and Black of South Carolina, the Huskies no doubt made a statement to the other semi-finalists.
Maggy Williams, a graduating senior and finalist for the Naismith Trophy Player of the Year, busted 23 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and swiped 2 steals to lead the Huskies over the Gamecocks. Crystal Dangerfield dropped 21 points and garnered 6 boards. Rounding out UConn’s double digit scorers were Katie Lou Samuelson (17) and the other Naismith Trophy finalist, Napheesa Collier (15), and Canada’s Kia Nurse (11).
Nurse, a native of Hamilton, joined her roommate Williams as graduating seniors on a victorious Monday night game against South Florida on February 26. The pair were honoured by the team’s head coach, Geno Auriemma, to the tune of Grover Washington’s Just The Two of Us in front of 9,115 adoring fans at Gampell Pavilion.
In the Huskies quarter-final onslaught South Carolina, the Gamecock’s A’Ja Wilson still managed a respectable 27 points and 8 boards. Her gallant efforts were joined by Alexis Jennings’ 15 points as the only other double digit scorer for the Gamecocks.
In the other contest, the PAC 12’s Oregon appeared to have a commanding 46-40 lead at the half, but the Fighting Irish came rushing out of the gates and raced the Ducks out of their shoes, 21-9, then capped it with a 23-to-19 4th quarter.
Kathryn Westbeld scored 20 pointss, clinched 7 rebounds, and dished out 3 assists, leading three other double digit scorers during Notre Dame’s charge. Arike Ogunbowale stepped up with 19, Jessica Shepard tallied 18, and Marina Mabrey added 15.
Sabrina Ionescu topped all scorers with 26 points and 5 rebounds in the losing effort for the Ducks. Her teammate, Ruthy Hebard, finished with the game’s only double-double, scoring a strong 17 points and 10 rebounds. Maite Cazorla rounded out Oregon’s double digit scorers with 13 points.
Although both teams shot an identical 43.3% from the floor, Notre Dame dropped a whooping 90.5% from the free throw line compared to only 77.8% for Oregon, who was also drastically out-rebounded 51-29.
The Final 4 filled unanimously with four No. 1 seeds for only the 4th time in the history of the tournament) sudden death elimination games will take place at NationWide Arena in Columbus, OH, this weekend. In the two semis on Good Friday, March 30 the highly favored undefeated UConn Huskies (36-0) will stare down the Notre Dame’s (33-3) Fighting Irish, and the Louisville Cardinals (36-2) will lock horns with the maroon and white Mississippi State Bulldogs (36-1) at 6pm.
According to the final rankings of the Associated Press next to Uconn, Baylor was ranked No.2, Louisville was ranked No.3, Mississippi was ranked No.4 and Notre Dame was ranked No. 5. Regardless of the rankings the two lone survivors of Friday’s showdowns will oppose one another for all of the marbles Easter Sunday, on April 1st. Should Uconn prevail it will be there 12 national title and 7th undefeated season, in a national tournament that only dates back to 1982.