April 2, 2022
Daily Briefing — April 2, 2022: CARDINAL SINS — UConn outduels Stanford for championship berth
The Hull has been breached
Happy Saturday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the daily Watch List, NCAA Roundup and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 135 — which I’m now realizing is incorrect, because of the days the NCAA tournament was off but the WNIT was on — of college basketball is here, and with it the WNIT Championship! This follows a day in which UConn battled through a tough, ugly, gritty win over Stanford for a title game appearance, thanks in no small part to incredible coaching from the Husky staff. On the other hand, Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer turned in one of the worst-coached games in recent program history — or at the very least, the worst such game with so high a profile — seemingly failing to take advantage of the strengths that had gotten the team here in the first place. But more on that idea in a later article.
Elsewhere, South Carolina took about 15 minutes before grinding Louisville into dust, though not before Emily Engstler helped validate my very high ranking of her on my draft board.
Watch List, Saturday, April 2
(All times in Eastern)
Seton Hall @ South Dakota State, 3 p.m., CBS Sports Network
New to the portal:
- River Baldwin, center, Florida State
- Diamond Battles, point guard, UCF
- Taylor Bigby, off-ball guard, Oregon. The freshman was the composite No. 22 player in the class of 2021; her other finalists during her high school recruitment were UCLA, North Carolina, Arizona, Michigan, Florida State, USC, Georgia, Cal, Utah, Colorado, and UNLV.
- Kennedy Brown, center, Oregon State. The junior’s sister, a high school senior, is joining Iowa State next year.
- Elauna Eaton, off-ball guard, Arkansas. The sophomore was the composite No. 48 player in the class of 2020; her other finalists during her high school recruitment were N.C. State, LSU, Ole Miss, and USC.
- Alisha Lewis, wing, UCF — three of the team’s top six players are now in the portal.
- Sammie Puisis, off-ball guard, Florida State — the fourth transfer out of Tallahassee, Fla. and the second undergrad to transfer.
- Cameron Swartz, wing, Boston College — the Eagles are now down to basically just combo forward Taylor Soule and Maria Gakdeng among this past year’s major contributors.
- Alexia Smith, point guard, Minnesota. The sophomore was the composite No. 117 player in the class of 2020.
Friday, April 1 recap
(All rankings below reflect tournament seeding)
#1 South Carolina beat #1 Louisville, 72-59, for its second championship game appearance (2017). The Cardinals took a mid-second-quarter lead after scoring 12-straight points, but trailed by 15 by the third-quarter media timeout. Louisville only took eight threes, a season-low (and only made one of them!); the Gamecocks shot 47.4% from the field and 35.3% from three; the Cardinals actually outdid South Carolina on the offensive glass; the teams combined for 24 steals.
Center Aliyah Boston led the Gamecocks with a 23-point, 18-rebound double-double on 8-for-12 from the field (1-2 3pt.) and 6-for-7 from the line, with six offensive boards and four assists against two turnovers; big Victaria Saxton and off-ball guard Brea Beal combined for 22 points on 9-for-13 FG, six rebounds, and four steals, with Beal adding three assists and two blocks; wing Zia Cooke and point guard Destanni Henderson combined for 21 points on 5-for-11 from three (3-9 from two).
Big wing Emily Engstler led Louisville with 18 points on 8-for-17 shooting (0-1 3pt.), nine rebounds (three offensive), and four steals against four turnovers while fouling-out in 32 minutes; big Olivia Cochran had 14 points on 6-for-11 FG, four offensive rebounds, and three steals against four fouls in 35 minutes; wing Kianna Smith notched 14 points on 7-for-18 from the field (0-2 3pt.), five rebounds, and three turnovers; combo guard Hailey Van Lith struggled to nine points on 4-for-11 shooting (1-3 3pt.), nine rebounds, three assists, and three steals against three turnovers while playing all 40.
#2 UConn beat #1 Stanford, 63-58, for its 12th championship game appearance. The Cardinal led in the late third quarter, then allowed a 15-6 Husky run through the mid-fourth that pretty much sealed things. The teams combined for 21 first-quarter points. The teams combined to shoot 35.8% from the field, but UConn shot 35.7% from three while Stanford went 4-for-23; the Huskies were a +9 in rebounding; the Cardinal notched 11 steals, part of 19 Husky turnovers.
UConn was led by point guard Paige Bueckers’ 14 points on 7-for-13 shooting (0-1 3pt.), four rebounds, five assists, and two steals against five turnovers; bench wing Evina Westbrook had 12 points on 3-for-5 from three (0-4 from two), six rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, and four fouls in 31 minutes; combo guard Christyn Williams scored 10 points on 3-for-13 from the field and 2-for-6 from three with two rebounds and two assists; center Olivia Nelson-Ododa and big Aaliyah Edwards committed a combined seven fouls in 49 minutes and somehow still won.
Point wing Haley Jones led Stanford with a double-double of 20 points on 8-for-21 shooting (0-5 3pt.) and 11 rebounds, plus three assists against two turnovers; center Cameron Brink had 15 points on 6-for-14 FG (0-1 3pt.), seven rebounds (three offensive), three steals, and two blocks against two turnovers and four fouls in 27 minutes — although the minutes load wasn’t a function of the fouls, with two of those whistles coming late in the game; wing Lexie Hull shot 2-for-12 from the field and 0-for-4 from three (0-2 FT) with three steals and three turnovers; off-ball guards Lacie Hull and Hannah Jump and combo guard Anna Wilson combined to go 3-for-10 from the field and 2-for-7 from three.