UConn, Notrre Dame earn rematch
Breanna Stewart scored 25 points and Morgan Tuck added 24 to lead UConn to an 81-58 win over Maryland on Sunday in the Final Four, leaving the Huskies one win away from a third straight national championship.
UConn will face Notre Dame for the title on Tuesday night in a rematch of last season’s championship game.
The Huskies have won nine titles overall and a victory over the Irish would tie Geno Auriemma with vaunted UCLA men’s coach John Wooden for the most all-time with 10. It also would be the second three-peat for UConn, which won three straight championships from 2002-04.
Tuck missed last season’s championship run while she was recovering from microfracture surgery on her right knee that allowed her to only play in eight games.
The redshirt sophomore made her presence felt on the game’s biggest stage.
Notre Dame 66, South Carolina 65
Down 12 points with less than eight minutes to go, South Carolina refused to give up on its dream.
The resilient Gamecocks methodically climbed back into their national semifinals matchup against Notre Dame, nearly pulling out an improbable victory before falling to the Irish.
“Unfortunately for us, it came down to them making a play when they needed to make a play and we didn’t,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “But I’m really proud of our effort.”
All-American Jewell Loyd scored 22 points as the Irish (36-2) advanced to the championship game for the fourth time in five years, but it took a basket from an unlikely source to survive a scoring drought that lasted more than seven minutes down the stretch.
Madison Cable’s putback for her only points of the night put the Irish in front for good.
“I was just crashing any way to try to get a rebound, and it kind of just bounced right where I was,” Cable said. “I turned around and had an open shot and took it. Luckily, it went in.”
Loyd said no one boxed out Cable on her game-winning basket, adding: “She’s done it all year. She’s the MVP.”
The Irish ran out to double-digit leads, but the Gamecocks wouldn’t go away.
“We didn’t rebound, missed a bunch of shots,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “Just a great basketball game. We went to Jewell. She had to do everything. Everyone contributed.”
South Carolina (34-3) overcame a 12-point, first-half deficit and did it again in the closing minutes. The feisty Gamecocks used a 13-0 run to take their only lead on Aleighsa Welch’s offensive stickback with 1:12 remaining.
“We were in the game. We fought our way back. We got the lead,” Staley said. “At that point, you don’t exhale and think you have the game won. ... It’s just they made a play.”
Brianna Turner scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds before fouling out for Notre Dame. Taya Reimer had 16 points for Notre Dame.
Freshman A’ja Wilson came off the bench to lead South Carolina with 20 points. She scored 10 straight for the Gamecocks at one point in the second half to keep her resilient team within striking distance.