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NCAA Tournament: UConn Women’s Basketball Blows Out South Carolina to Advance to Final Four

Crystal Dangerfield had a career night as the Huskies took down the defending national champions.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The UConn women’s basketball team took one step closer to capturing its 12th national title as they disposed of defending champions South Carolina to advance to their 11th straight Final Four, 94-65. It is the Huskies’ 19th overall Final Four which breaks a tie with UCLA for the most by any program, men’s or women’s.

Crystal Dangerfield put together a first half for the ages, scoring 19 points while hitting a perfect 5-5 from three-point land. She finished with 21 points and six assists.

However, she was quick to credit her teammates after the game.

“My teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open and I was able to knock those shots in early,” Dangerfield said. “I really wanted it for our team and we really wanted to get back to the Final Four and we came out with great energy.”

Dangerfield, along with teammates Katie Lou Samuelson and Gabby Williams were named to the All-Regional Team with Williams bringing home Most Outstanding Player honors.

South Carolina Gamecocks and UConn Huskies postgame press conferences

UConn got off to a quick start, jumping ahead 9-3 after making its first three shots. The two teams played contrasting styles as South Carolina tried to slow the game down and limit possessions while the Huskies flew up the court when they had the ball.

One of the Gamecocks biggest issues in the tournament was their inability to protect the ball and UConn took full advantage, forcing six first-quarter turnovers. The Huskies held a moderate lead midway through the first before exploding for an 8-0 run capped by Samuelson completing a four-point play.

South Carolina’s focus on both ends of the court was centered on controlling the paint. The Gamecocks were successful, but it was just about the only thing they did right in the first half. They held UConn to just four points in the paint in the first quarter but the Huskies capitalized on the outside, hitting 9-10 from behind the arc in the first half.

Defensively, UConn struggled to stop A’ja Wilson and Alexis Jennings as the duo combined for 25 of USC’s 33 first-half points while shooting 11-15. However, their teammates struggled to pull their weight as the Gamecocks shot just 1-7 outside the paint in the first half.

The second quarter was even as the Huskies only slightly outscored South Carolina, 24-21, but UConn seized momentum going into the break thanks to an impressive drive and dish from Dangerfield to Azura Stevens just before the buzzer.

Geno Auriemma, Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams, Napheesa Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson, Azura Stevens and Crystal Dangerfield postgame locker room video

In the third quarter, UConn began to pull away. The Huskies used three small runs of six points, eight points, and six points, respectively, to take a 29-point lead going into the final frame.

South Carolina made some noise in the fourth quarter but did nowhere near enough to make any comeback attempt before the final buzzer sounded.

All five UConn starters reached double figures while no other South Carolina player besides Wilson and Jennings scored more than eight points. Williams stuffed the stat sheet, as always, with 23 points, five assists, and five rebounds while also picking up her 100th career block.

Samuelson had a strong day from three, hitting 4-6 from deep on her way to 17 points. Napheesa Collier dropped 16 points while grabbing seven rebounds and tossing three assists.

UConn advances to the Final Four in Columbus, where the Huskies will take on the Spokane Regional winner, No. 1 seeded Notre Dame at 9 p.m. on Friday night. The Louisville Cardinals and Mississippi State Bulldogs will play the first game at 7 p.m. Both games will be televised on ESPN2.