After its remarkably trying season, UConn women’s basketball is heading to the national championship game. The Huskies took down the Stanford Cardinal 63-58 and earned a date with South Carolina in Sunday’s national championship game. It’s the Huskies’ first title game appearance since 2016.
UConn led for over 36 minutes — including the entire fourth quarter — to secure the victory. The Huskies won the game on the foul line, going 15-of-17 in the final period and 16-of-20 overall while Stanford made just 8-of-13 from the stripe.
Aaliyah Edwards finished with eight points and eight rebounds and came up big in crunch time with a couple of tough rebounds, a charge, and three clutch free throws to help UConn get the win.
Paige Bueckers led the Huskies with 14 points while Evina Westbrook had 12 points, going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Christyn Williams added 10 points and Olivia Nelson-Ododa finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Williams gave UConn the lead on its first possession of the day and Bueckers doubled it with a jumper shortly afterward. Those were all the points the Huskies managed through the first five minutes, though. They made just two of their first eight shots and struggled to get much of anything inside.
However, UConn’s defense held up its end of the bargain, keeping Stanford without a point for the first 2:57 and limiting the Cardinal to one bucket through the first 6:37.
The two teams traded baskets until the Cardinal went on a 7-0 run in the second quarter to take their first lead of the game, with 1:20 until halftime.
It didn’t last long, though. The Huskies came right back as Nika Mühl hit a tough layup through contact to put them up 27-26, a lead they’d take into the locker room.
Out of the break, Stanford quickly tied the game with a jumper from Haley Jones and Ashten Prechtel nailed a 3-pointer to put the Cardinal back ahead. UConn responded with four straight points to re-take the lead, though Stanford grabbed it right back with a 4-0 run.
From there, the Huskies took over. The seniors — Williams and Nelson-Ododa — teamed up for five points to give UConn a four-point advantage — the first multi-possession lead for either side in the second half. As the fourth quarter began, the Huskies extended it all the way to eight entering the final media timeout with 4:40 to go.
Stanford battled to get the deficit down to four but UConn got it right back to eight with 1:26 remaining. However, the Huskies started to make mistakes down the stretch. Edwards committed a violation on an inbound following a Stanford basket, which allowed them to get back within four.
Fudd hit two free throws to put UConn up by seven with 40 seconds left before the Huskies gave up a three, committed a turnover then gave up a basket, allowing Stanford to pull back within two with 24.4 on the clock.
The Huskies kept their cool late, hitting five of their final six free throws and holding the Cardinal to just one basket to pull out the five-point victory.
The Huskies improve to 12-10 all-time in national semifinal contests as they advance to the national championship game, where the program holds an 11-0 record. They’ll take on No. 1 overall seed South Carolina in the final on Sunday night.