UConn women’s basketball beats Stanford in the Final Four

It’s been a wild season for UConn. They came in with high expectations and battled injuries all season. Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Christyn Williams and more all missed time with injury or illness. But the Huskies are headed back to the championship game.

Geno Auriemma has a pretty good track record in championship games, of course, with an 11-0 record. Can the Huskies pick up a 12th national title? We’ll find out Sunday night. 

Relive the action from Friday night’s hard-fought Final Four victory over Stanford below: 

UConn beats Stanford 63-58

UConn is headed back to the national championship for the first time since 2016. The Huskies defeated Stanford 63-58 in a defensive battle that had a bit of a wild finish over the last four minutes.

Stanford just wouldn’t go away. Paige Bueckers led the Huskies with 14 points, while Evina Westbrook scored 12, including three 3-pointers in the first half. Azzi Fudd didn’t get hot at any point, but did sink two free throws late in the game to help seal it.

UConn now heads to the title game against South Carolina, a team they lost to earlier this season in the Bahamas. The game is on ESPN at 8 p.m.

Stanford hanging in against UConn

What a fourth quarter it’s been with Stanford just not going away. UConn holds a four-point lead with 11 seconds left after Christyn Williams and Azzi Fudd hit their free throws.

A wild finish ahead? 

What a weird last minute or so for both teams. Aaliyah Edwards and Azzi Fudd had bad turnovers. Edwards made up for it by drawing a charge. A big 3-pointer from Stanford… this is a wild finish.

Huskies clinging to late lead 

Less than two minutes left in this one and UConn holds a 6-point lead. As good as Stanford has been in the paint, they can’t buy one from downtown. The Cardinal is 2-18 from the 3-point line. Credit goes to UConn for some tough defense.

Paige Bueckers playing in pain

Paige Bueckers is back in for the final 2-plus minutes. She looks to be in a bit of pain, but chances are she has little interest in coming out. She was in the middle of a fight for the basketball and appears to be moving OK despite some grimacing.

Huskies leading with under 5 minutes to play

It hasn’t been an offensive back-and-forth. These teams are grinding for their points. But UConn got a little distance in the first part of the fourth quarter with four points from Olivia Nelson-Ododa and a big 3-pointer from Christyn Williams. They hold an 8-point lead with 4:40 left. The Huskies haven’t been to the championship game since 2016. Are they headed back?

Paige Bueckers limping after falling hard 

With about five minutes to play, Paige Bueckers had to be taken out of the game with what appeared to be a leg injury. She was limping off after falling hard to the floor. But just seconds earlier, she anticipated a pass, picked it off and drove in for two. She’s got a team-leading 14 points. She appeared OK on the bench and is likely to be headed back in. UConn needs Paige to just keep being Paige.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa is stepping up in the fourth quarter

Geno Auriemma said in the first quarter he wanted his post players to attack the basket. Olivia Nelson-Ododa has done just that so far in the fourth quarter. She has four point and has also gotten Stanford’s Cameron Brink into foul trouble with four fouls. Nelson-Ododa is up to eight points and nine rebounds.

UConn up two after three quarters

As soon as we posted that last update, Christyn Williams hit a 3-pointer and is now at 5 points.

It hasn’t been the prettiest basketball game, but here we are with the season on he line heading into the fourth quarter with UConn leading 39-37.

Stanford has outscored UConn in the paint 24-10 and UConn has still only taken three foul shots. Meanwhile, UConn has 11 turnovers to Stanford’s 5. Aaliyah Edward and Olivia Nelson-Ododa are both playing with three fouls.

UConn has had the opportunities with 46 shots, but has only drained 17 of them. It’s pretty simple: you need to score in order to win. UConn needs to get a few players hot this quarter.

Huskies struggling to hit shots, relying on defense

Speaking of struggles, Christyn Williams is only 1 for 8 tonight, with 2 points. She’s had opportunities — including an open 3-pointer a few minutes ago — but can’t seem to sink anything. If she, similar to Azzi Fudd, comes alive, the Huskies will be in great shape. Instead, they’ve been grinding away and relying on their defense to keep them in this. Williams, a senior, has been a standout in the postseason and solid all year.

Can UConn get Azzi Fudd open from 3? 

At the media timeout in the third quarter, Azzi Fudd with only four points jumps out. She’s 0 for 1 from the 3-point line. The freshman has shown her ability to really open up a game by getting hot from deep. If UConn can get her open sometime soon, it could prove to be a difference.

The Huskies lead 34-31 and need to figure out a way to break the game open a bit while they are containing Stanford. UConn’s defense has continued to prove solid all game.

Paige Bueckers remains a steady force

Paige Bueckers is somewhat quietly already up to 12 points. Since her return, she hasn’t been wildly flashy on offense, but she’s certainly been consistently steady.

She’s shooting 6 for 11 tonight and over the last two games has really found her groove. That groove seems to be in the mid-range game. In the game of basketball, in which so much these days has become either played at the hoop or around the 3-point line, you will still take the points however you can get them. If she keeps it going, UConn will stay in this game.

More foul trouble for UConn

Geno Auriemma said he didn’t need his post players — Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa — to be great tonight, just good. They’ve been OK, but he also needs something else out of them: to be eligible to play.

Nelson-Ododa picked up her third foul early in the second half while setting a screen. She will need to be smart and careful the rest of the game.

Expect Stanford to take it right at her because she will likely be playing cautiously.

Nosebleed limits Lexie Hull in first half

A storyline we didn’t exactly expect from this game is Lexie Hull’s nosebleed. The senior guard is averaging nearly 13 points and over 5 rebounds per game this season, but hasn’t scored yet in 20 minutes.

She had cotton in her nostril in the first half and had to leave early before the quarter ended to take care of her nose. We’ll see if it limits her at all in the second half.

Evina Westbrook leading UConn so far

How about Evina Westbrook in the first half? She’s probably not the first player that comes to mind with this UConn team, but the former No. 2 overall recruit per ESPN has taken seven shots and score 9 over 15 minutes. That includes three 3-pointers. She’s added five rebounds.

Observers weren’t sure if Westbrook would return to the Huskies this year as she was WNBA draft-eligible. But the senior leader returned and has provided a spark throughout the year and found ways to contribute when not scoring. Behind the scenes, she’s not only a leader, but known as ‘Mama Westbrook’ because she’s known to take care of the players.

It’s quite a difference from her days at Tennessee, where she eventually exited following some team turmoil. If she gives UConn a similar effort in the second half, watch out.

UConn leads Stanford 27-26 at half

The game isn’t playing out quite as well either team would probably like on offense, but that’s probably because both teams are playing some standout defense. UConn is shooting 35% and Stanford 37%, although Stanford really picked it up in the second quarter.

Stanford is outscoring UConn in the paint 20-6 and will continue to attack in the paint, especially with Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa in foul trouble and a lack of depth on the bench. But beyond that, the teams are pretty even in other stats.

Nika Muhl on the board

There’s Nika Muhl! For someone who hasn’t played a ton of minutes, she figures out ways to impact the game. She grabbed a rebound there, scored and drew a foul. She might have missed the foul shot, but it’s worth noting it was also UConn’s first foul shot of the game.

The Huskies need to get to the foul line some more, which gets back to the need to score in the paint.

Stanford is beating UConn in the paint 

Some quick observations during the latest media timeout:

  • Stanford is outscoring UConn in the paint 18-4. UConn has to slow that down and also take advantage of some of their own chances.
  • Evina Westbrook draining 3s?! The Huskies will take that added offense all day. She’s now at 9 points.
  • Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards each have 2 fouls. Neither can pick up another foul before halftime.

Stanford’s loss was UConn’s gain

Back to the Diana Taurasi-Sue Bird broadcast for a moment. Taurasi said not only did she love watching Stanford, but she wanted to go there. Apparently, she couldn’t get in, and on the first day of recruiting, she got a call “from an unnamed coach who told me I was not Stanford material. And there went my Cardinal dreams.”

We’re guessing Stanford regrets that decision.

Foul trouble for UConn 

Here we go with the fouls – Aaliyah Edwards has picked up her second only a minute into the second quarter. That’s bad news for UConn, who is without Dorka Juhász for the season after her wrist injury. Coach Geno Auriemma said between quarters he was looking for his post players to attack the basket some more and take advantage of offensive opportunities.

Azzi Fudd also picked up a second foul, so she will likely take to the bench for a bit. Caroline Ducharme is coming in to take her place – must be nice to have a couple of freshmen of that caliber.

UConn leads after first quarter 

The first quarter seemed to fly by. UConn takes a 12-9 lead into the break. Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd each have four points, while Christyn Williams and Aaliyah Edwards have two apiece. Some other quick notes:

  • UConn is still only shooting 33%, but have had plenty of looks. Stanford is at 25%.
  • UConn is outrebounding 15-10
  • Azzi Fudd has played a full 10 minutes. It’s a lot, but Geno Auriemma has said he will keep her out there a lot. She stretches the floor for the Huskies. She played 49 minutes on Monday.

Steph Curry: Azzi Fudd is ready for ‘those big moments’ 

We haven’t seen Azzi Fudd sink a 3-pointer yet, but it doesn’t mean she won’t. On the alternate broadcast, Steph Curry told Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird that Fudd came through his basketball camp and he’s been impressed ever since.

“There’s something just consistent about her balance, her release,” he said. “She’s ready for those big moments. She is a sharpshooter to say the least.”

Curry, the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, signed Fudd to join his brand last year, opening up some business opportunities for her.

UConn up 4-2 at first timeout

At the first media timeout, it hasn’t been the prettiest basketball. UConn leads 4-2 and is shooting 25%. Stanford? Just 11%. UConn has had plenty of opportunities, just hasn’t fully capitalized. The same can be said for Stanford. One thing to watch is Aaliyah Edwards picking up an offensive foul. She needs to be careful with Dorka Juhász injured.

UConn greats on the mic

There are multiple broadcasts of this game tonight. On ESPN, there’s the traditional broadcast of Ryan Ruocco and Rebecca Lobo. The alternative broadcast on ESPN2, you can watch the game and listen to UConn legends Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.

The alternative broadcast is sure to bring insight, some humor and some fun, personal insight. Taurasi, forever tied to UConn, admitted to growing up watching Stanford. Taurasi, for what it’s worth, grew up in southern California. Sorry, UCLA.

UConn strikes first as Stanford comes out cold

UConn missed its first couple of 3-pointers, but both came with plenty of space between the shooter and the defender. If UConn gets some more opportunities like that, they should start hitting a few. NC State gave UConn very little space all night on Monday.

Meanwhile, Stanford has started out cold. UConn should take advantage of that as much as possible. It was good for the Huskies to get on the board first, and it will be especially important to get Paige Bueckers and Christyn Williams going.

Another chapter in the Geno-Tara rivalry

Somewhat lost in the excitement of the night — between Paige Bueckers, Haley Jones, the great basketball that has been played all season — is Geno Auriemma vs. Tara VanDerveer. Tara has the most wins in women’s college basketball coaching history. Geno has the second most wins. They’ve had a rivalry for years, but Tara considered it a cordial, competitive rivalry earlier this week.

There’s plenty of history there, but it’s truly incredible that 27 years after UConn beat Stanford in the Final Four at the Target Center in Minneapolis… they are back in the Final Four, facing off at – where else? – the Target Center.

Geno Auriemma on Stanford’s size ahead of tip-off

In a pregame interview with Holly Rowe, UConn coach Geno Auriemma admitted Stanford’s size and length will likely be a problem for the Huskies tonight.

They certainly could have used Dorka Juhász tonight, but Auriemma seemed up for the task. The good news is, “they can’t play them all at the same time,” he said.

He also spoke about Paige Bueckers, who took over Monday night with 27 points. She looked like the Paige of last season. Auriemma said there’s nothing that can prepare her for this moment, but feels she’s up for the task. He compared the trip to any other road trip, although this road trip happens to be Minneapolis, an area she grew up in.

“Who wouldn’t be excited to be here?” Auriemma said.

A familiar face on the bench for UConn – Dorka Juhász

After a brutal injury on Monday, Juhász made a delayed trip to Minneapolis to join the team at the Final Four.

Juhász entered the game on Monday, provided some solid defense and a spark for the Huskies. But when she went to the ground looking for a loose ball, she braced her fall with her left hand. Unfortunately, her wrist was broken and dislocated. The team was visibly emotional, knowing the seriousness.

While she’s had her highs and lows, Juhász provides quality depth for the Huskies behind Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa. The key tonight will be to keep them out of foul trouble and enough rest when they can get it.

UConn-Stanford winner to face South Carolina

UConn will have to get through Stanford if it wants to get to the championship game Sunday against South Carolina. The Gamecocks looked strong as they have all year against Louisville in the Final Four.

The Huskies faced South Carolina back in November in the Bahamas, and while the game was competitive, UConn was overmatched.

UConn has certainly matured since then though, and Azzi Fudd, who wound up sitting out due to injury after that game, is not only healthy but playing like a veteran. It would certainly be a different matchup this time around — if UConn can get past Stanford.

Aaliyah Boston racked up 23 points in, yet another, dominant performance for South Carolina. The All-American and national player of the year also had 18 rebounds.

It’s hard not to think “what if?” of course. Geno Auriemma heavily recruited Boston out of high school. She was the No. 3 recruit according to ESPN and would’ve given the Huskies an excellent scorer and rebounder. The No. 1 recruit? Haley Jones, who UConn will see in this game on Stanford. Auriemma recruited Jones, as well.

Auriemma did joke this week about missing out on some top recruits asking who would the Huskies play if they landed every recruit.

Christyn Williams wins Ann Meyers Drysdale Award

UConn senior Christyn Williams has won the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award. Williams beat out finalists DePaul’s Sonya Morris, Florida Gulf Coast’s Kierstan Bell, Ohio State’s Taylor Mikesell and Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson.

The award is given by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association to honor the best shooting guard of the year. Williams is the first Husky to win the award

The Huskies have arrived

The Huskies — including injured forward Dorka Juház — are in Target Center watching the conclusion of South Carolina vs. Louisville.

A look at UConn’s streak of 14 straight Final Fours

When the Huskies hit the court in Minneapolis on Friday for their Final Four showdown with Stanford, it will mark their 14th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s semifinal round. It’s a stretch that includes six national championships.

As we await tip-off, take a look back at UConn’s recent Final Four streak, from heartbreak in Denver to glory in Indianapolis.

UConn fans Bonnie Emery, Diane Bancroft and Jan Hayton in Minneapolis for the the UConn-Stanford national semifinal game Friday April 1, 2022.

UConn fans Bonnie Emery, Diane Bancroft and Jan Hayton in Minneapolis for the the UConn-Stanford national semifinal game Friday April 1, 2022.

Maggie Vanoni / Hearst Connecticut Media Group

UConn fans continue Final Four tradition in Minneapolis

Hours before tip-off in the Final Four showdown between UConn and Stanford, UConn alumni, fans and even a future Husky — Class of 2023 commit KK Arnold — crowded the area around Target Center in Minneapolis.

Some had traveled from Connecticut, while others came from even farther to see the team compete in the biggest women’s basketball event of the year.

“It’s the best there is and it’s going to be a win and you can’t get any better than the UConn Huskies. It’s going to be a fantastic game it’s going to be a fantastic tournament,” Lorraine MacIntyre said. “It seems like the city is excited which is really neat. … Everybody’s excited. The whole vibe. It really doesn’t matter what team you’re playing for, they’re excited. It’s an experience.”

Read more on the UConn fans in Minneapolis for the Final Four from Hearst Connecticut’s Maggie Vanoni.

Is Paige Bueckers the next Diana Taurasi?

Diana Taurasi is arguably the GOAT (greatest of all-time) when it comes to UConn women’s basketball players. So how does current UConn star Paige Bueckers stack up? 

“I don’t like to compare players from different eras,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I think that’s usually a dangerous thing because it does a little bit of disservice to both kids. Diana was Diana, and there will never be another one like her.”

It’s early in Bueckers’ collegiate career, and the sophomore has a way to go to reach Tauarsi’s all-time greatness level. Still, Taurasi herself made the comparison last year in a video posted to social media.

“Oh, freshman Paige has way more confidence than I did,” Taurasi said at the time. 

Read more on the qualities shared by Paige Bueckers and Diana Taurasi.

Head coach Geno Auriemma of the UConn Huskies speaks to reporters before a practice session with the team at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Head coach Geno Auriemma of the UConn Huskies speaks to reporters before a practice session with the team at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Andy Lyons / Getty Images

UConn coach Geno Auriemma has strong words about the transfer portal

Geno Auriemma is sounding off on the transfer portal ahead of his team’s 14th consecutive Final Four appearance. 

The Huskies have had two players leave the program this season — Saylor Poffenbarger to Arkansas and Mir McLean to Virginia. There are nearly 900 women’s college basketball players in the NCAA’s transfer portal.

“I don’t care if they leave,” Auriemma said at the Final Four. “Players leave all the time. Coaches leave all the time. That’s life.”

Read more on Auriemma’s comments from Hearst Connecticut’s Mike Anthony.