Stanford Cardinal and the Arizona Wildcats will square off in the NCAA finals after beating their respective rivals in the semis tonight. Stanford survived a drama against the South Carolina Gamecocks, while Arizona eliminated UConn Huskies, making a big surprise.
Brea Beal had everything in her hands, one-on-one fast break with her Gamecocks being one point behind Stanford. However, she missed what might have been the biggest layup of her life, allowing the rivals to proceed to the finals and sending her team back home. Stanford won, 66-65.
It was a climax of a wild last minute, which saw South Carolina’s Destanni Henderson hitting a go-ahead three for 65-64, and Haley Jones’s jumper on the other side that brought back the edge to the Cardinal. Turnovers, misses, fouls all that was seen in the remaining half a minute, and in the end, the ball ended up in Beal’s possession, but she failed to show up when needed the most.
Zia Cooke scored 25 points for the Gamecocks, hitting five threes in eight attempts, and Henderson had 18. Aliyah Boston added a strong double-double with 11 points and 16 boards.
On the other side, Haley Jones dropped 24, while Lacie Hull did all the dirty work, securing 13 boards, six in offense, with 18 points and four assists. Cameron Brink posted six blocks.
In the other semifinals, Arizona outplayed UConn, 69-59, making a massive upset. The Wildcats had the lead throughout the whole time, controlling the pace of the match and successfully rebuffing several surges the Huskies tried.
Fantastic Aari McDonald was in the middle of attention again, scoring 26 points following back-to-back 30-point performances in the previous rounds. McDonald sunk four threes and had seven boards as well.
So far, she is undoubtedly the first star of the entire tournament, leading third-seed Arizona to the heights nobody expected. Sam Thomas scored 12 for the Wildcats and Cate Reese 11.
On the other side, Paige Bueckers had 18 points, but kicked in late, with a couple of baskets while trying to cut down the deficit in the event’s final minutes. She was 5-for-13 from the field, with six boards, and didn’t contribute as expected. Christyn Williams posted a team-high with 20 points, 7-for-17, and five boards.
The most interesting event of the entire March Madness, the NCAA finals, is set for Sunday night, at 6 pm ET. The game takes place at the Alamodome in San Antonio.