ALBANY, N.Y., March 26 – Nothing is guaranteed in life – even for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.
But UConn’s preparation certainly helps. The undefeated Huskies hit nine of 10 shots from beyond the three-point line in the first half to rout No. 2 South Carolina and win the Albany Regional final Monday night, 94-65 and earn an 11th consecutive trip to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. No. 1 UConn will face Notre Dame on Friday in the semifinals.
Gabby Williams scored a team-high 23 points against the defending national champion Gamecocks while guard Crystal Dangerfield scored 19 of her 21 points in the first half to lead the Huskies (36-0). UConn sank five three-point shots in the first quarter to race out to a 30-12 lead.
“We are not entitled to anything. We have to earn it,” Williams said.
Dangerfield said, “My teammates were able to find me when I was open and I was able to knock those shots in. 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.”
UConn didn’t let up in the second quarter. Dangerfield was 5-for-5 from three-point range in the second quarter and the fifth one gave the Huskies a 52-31 lead.
“UConn makes you pay,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “You’ve got to pick your poison. If you dig in too much to help in the paint, they are going to kill you on the outside. If you over play on the outside, you know, they are going to backdoor you for wide-open layups.It was that kind of game in which we could not control it, especially early on.”
In the second half, the lead for UConn got as low as 19 points and as high as 32 points.
Katie Lou Samuelson had 17 points for Connecticut while Napheesa Collier scored 16. Kia Nurse contributed with 11 points.
“We have a really — we have a really good group,” Auriemma said. “You know, we try to recruit a certain kind of kid. We were talking about this the other night at dinner; that to get consistently the results that we get, you have to have super competitive individuals that — and it’s something that they have to learn when they come to Connecticut; that every day is a competition.
Every day, you’re competing, and that whenever you settle for just being okay, then all of a sudden, we’re not Connecticut anymore. If we take a day off in a game; if we just decide we don’t feel like it; and don’t show up one night and get beat by a team that has no right to beat us because we have way more talent than them, we wouldn’t be Connecticut anymore.
“You have to recruit those kids that if we were playing a crossword puzzle, they would want to win; a card game, they would want to win,” Auriemma said. “You know, all right, everybody line up; they’ve got to be first in line. And that’s what allows you to stay where you are because it’s pretty hard to do better than what’s been done at Connecticut.”
South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson led the way for the Gamecocks (29-7) with 27 points and a team-high eight rebounds.