The Wildcats had been prepared for the second.
Arizona, a No. 3 seed on this 12 months’s match, shocked No. 1 seed Connecticut 69-59 on Friday night time on the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, to advance to the nationwide championship recreation.
“Nobody thought we might win. Nobody thought we might be right here. We do not care,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes mentioned after the sport on the ESPN broadcast.
Mentioned Arizona senior guard Aari McDonald, who led all scorers with 26 factors: “We simply believed. We labored arduous to get right here.”
The Wildcats will face a well-recognized foe in Sunday’s closing in fellow Pac-12 group and No. 1 general seed Stanford, who held off No. 1 seed South Carolina 66-65 earlier within the day. The Cardinal is again within the nationwide championship recreation for the primary time since 2010.
Whereas the Wildcats are aiming for his or her first nationwide title, Stanford seeks its third, having received all of it in 1990 and 1992. Each of these titles got here underneath Tara VanDerveer, the winningest head coach in ladies’s basketball historical past.
After Stanford’s win, and earlier than Arizona and UConn took the ground, VanDerveer mentioned she was pulling for the Wildcats.
“That may be superior,” she mentioned. “We’re rooting for Arizona. It will be actually thrilling to — it is simply I feel a credit score to how aggressive the Pac-12 is.”
Stanford received each conferences in opposition to Arizona within the common season.
In the meantime, UConn, an 11-time NCAA champion, was in its thirteenth straight Ultimate 4 look and twenty first general — and in addition had guard Paige Bueckers, the primary freshman to win AP ladies’s participant of the 12 months.
And though Bueckers had 18 factors and junior guard Christyn Williams had 20 earlier than fouling out, the Huskies had no reply for Arizona’s McDonald or the Wildcats’ protection.
“I feel we got here out with the incorrect mentality,” Williams mentioned. “Thought it was going to be straightforward I assume. We obtained flustered. They’d nice ball stress and it wasn’t like something that we have seen earlier than this season.”
Geno Auriemma was blunt after studying of what Williams mentioned.
“We have now a really immature group. Not simply younger, however a really immature group. And once we’re excessive and once we’re on high of the world, we predict all the things is nice. When issues do not go our approach, there is a poutiness about us, there is a feeling sorry for ourselves about us. You do not win championships if you’re like that until you get fortunate.”
Stanford survives South Carolina
On Friday, within the Cardinal’s 14th Ultimate 4 look, it was a nail biter within the closing minute.
A 3-pointer from Destanni Henderson gave South Carolina a 65-64 lead with 38.8 seconds to go. However a Haley Jones jumper gave Stanford the lead again with 32 seconds remaining.
The Gamecocks had one final likelihood to win it on the buzzer, however Aliyah Boston missed the putback after Brea Beal’s layup did not fall.
“To have the ability to shoot that shot and have it go in for the group, it simply means a lot as a result of we have been by means of such extraordinary circumstances this 12 months,” Jones, who led Stanford with 24 factors, mentioned.
“We had been on the street for 2 months,” she continued, alluding to laws in Santa Clara County that stored Stanford away from campus and compelled the Cardinal to relocate for coaching and competitors from November 29 by means of January 31. “We got here again to high school. We could not actually depart our dorm rooms, could not go to Goal to get hair provide or something like that. We had been simply on campus.
“It has been a extremely tough 12 months. I feel that would have damaged quite a lot of totally different groups. We have now a lot love and respect and belief in each other, this simply means a lot greater than any previous shot, any previous season, any recreation win that I’ve ever been part of. This simply type of means extra.”
This was South Carolina’s third Ultimate 4 look in program historical past, all coming within the final six NCAA tournaments. The Gamecocks received the nationwide title in 2017.
“Each single time that we have had a setback, we have gotten higher,” South Carolina head coach Daybreak Staley mentioned after the loss.
“It is unlucky that this setback will likely be a whole low season, however we are going to get higher. We’ll get higher. We are able to arm ourselves with what we have to reverse us dropping basketball video games on this second, in the best way that we did.”