South Carolina hoist National Championship trophy after defeating UConn

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Minneapolis, MN — The last time South Carolina (35-2) and UConn (30-6) met was back in November. The two faced off in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas where the Gamecocks beat the Huskies, 73-57. National championships aren’t won in November, though, they can be building blocks to prepare for the season, but titles are won in March.

November is early in the season as both teams are learning their chemistry. If you’ve been watching March Madness, you know both teams have been challenged and found a way to survive to the very last game of the season. They’ve both grown in big ways as the year progressed.

Yes, UConn fought until the end — it wasn’t enough though as the Gamecocks won its second national championship with a final score of, 64-49. South Carolina did a lot of great actions on the floor, yet there were three reasons they hoisted up their second national championship.

Relentless pursuit of the ball: The first frame set the tone for the game as the Gamecocks pulled down seven offensive rebounds. By half time, South Carolina had scored 16 points off of their offensive rebounds. As UConn and South Carolina headed to their respective locker rooms at intermission, the Gamecocks had pulled down 16 offensive rebounds — the Huskies only had three.

As the game continued, South Carolina didn’t let up. UConn was better with boxing out, however, the Gamecocks never quit putting themselves in position to crash the offensive weakside boards or simply out jumping UConn for the board.

South Carolina outrebounded UConn 49-24 on total rebounds and 21-6 on the offensive boards. Aliyah Boston and Victaria Saxton both finished with five offensive rebounds apiece for South Carolina.

Defensive intensity: As the old saying goes, defense wins championships. The Gamecocks took that statement to heart tonight as they opened the game and locked in on the defensive end. By the end of the opening 10 minutes, South Carolina had held UConn to its lowest point total all season — they only scored eight. The Huskies struggled to score, South Carolina erupted for 22 points in the first period.

The Huskies also turned the ball over nine times which helped the Gamecocks to jump out to a big lead early on. South Carolina continued to fly all over the court forcing turnover after turnover for the Huskies.

By the end of the game, South Carolina forced 15 turnovers and held UConn to 49-points the entire game.

Destanni Henderson’s play: For some, as their point guard goes, so does their team. The Gamecocks are completely different when Destanni Henderson is running the point. The senior guard started the game hot, especially from three as she went three-for-three from beyond the arc. It wasn’t just her timely shots though, but the pace of the game.

Henderson knows how to push the ball, yet is under control. She had the Huskies on their heels and even though in the first half she didn’t always get the foul call she was trying to get, she continued to penetrate the paint. In the second half, she didn’t let up and was able to get to the foul line.

Whenever UConn went on a run, Henderson had an answer either in a half-court set or pushing the ball in transition. Defensively, she made it HARD for UConn’s guards to get to their spots, too.

She was so good tonight, she finished with a career-high 26 points plus four assists, three steals, and two rebounds.

South Carolina showed why all year they were ranked No. 1: they are poised offensively, have multiple weapons, can defend at a top level and always found a way to weather the storm when UConn pushed back to get in the game.