#Gamecocks Fill ‘Destanni’ Championship Behind Henderson’s Epic Performance (AUDIO) – SportsTalkSC

Destanni Henderson came on strong when her team needed it most, scoring 26 points in Sunday’s title game (NCAA)

South Carolina captured its second national women’s basketball championship with a 64-49 victory over UConn in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Sunday. Destanni Henderson provided the firepower, scoring a game-high 26 points and delivering four assists. On the defensive end, the Gamecocks smothered UConn, limiting the Huskies to 30 percent shooting in the second half and winning the battle of the boards 49-24. It was the second-highest rebound advantage (25) in NCAA Women’s Championship Game history. But this statistic only tells part of the story. USC (35-2) was able to repeatedly create second-shot opportunities with 21 offensive rebounds.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said: “We knew if we didn’t stand on the boards it was going to be a bad night for us and that’s what happened…J told Dawn after the game that they’re the best team in the campaign. They were the best team tonight and they were the best team in the country when they beat us in the Bahamas (November 22, 73-57).

Few would disagree with Auriemma’s assessment as USC became the highest-ranked team in the nation, winning six NCAA Tournament games by averaging 23.3 points.

As the Huskies defense focused on slowing down All-American Aliyah Boston, the quick-as-a-cat Henderson exploited the strategy, scoring a career high. Even with UConn slumping in the paint, Boston still managed 11 points and 16 rebounds. Zia Cooke (11 points) joined Henderson and Boston in double digits.

USC’s defense set the tone early, forcing five UConn turnovers in the first quarter and racing to a 22-8 lead. The Huskies fought back, closing the gap to six behind an 8-0 run in the third quarter. But Henderson had the answer, reducing the lead to nine on a free throw and a layup in transition to close the period. South Carolina’s defense didn’t allow UConn to mount a critical time threat.

Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley said of Henderson: “You want your seniors to end their careers like Henny ended his. Not just for the national championship, but for growth. We will always remember this performance. Whichever WNBA team gets it, it gets low maintenance and performs very well.

Despite the lopsided finish, the Huskies converted as many field goals as South Carolina. But the Gamecocks’ aggressiveness paid off in extra possessions and trips to the foul line. USC hit 17 of 26 free throws (65%) while UConn hit just 1 of 4.

UConn, the longtime gold standard in the sport, has at times seemed outmatched by the newly crowned champions. The Huskies had been 11-0 in title game chances before coming up against the fashionable USC saw on Sunday. Dawn Staley and South Carolina firmly established themselves as an elite national force, winning a title in 2017 and finishing the 2020 season at no. 1 (no post-season tournament due to COVID) before claiming the 2022 championship.

Final box

Aliyah Boston, the AP National Player of the Year, averaged 17 points and 17 rebounds in two Final Four games (NCAA)

Dawn Staley, Destanni Henderson and
Aliyah Boston post-game press conference

The Gamecocks have gone 93-8 the past three seasons (University of South Carolina Athletics)

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