By: Jeffrey Newholm
I’ll have a full report on the Women’s Final Four after I get home, but I just wanted to give my quick take on the semifinals and do a preview of the championship game Tuesday night.
Uconn vs. Oregon State Semifinal Recap
This one went just as I, and quite honestly every expert expected it to go (except for overly optimistic fans of parity), with just a small twist on State’s part in the first half. One of the things I’ve noticed in my time watching sports is that the underdog sometimes makes big risks with their game plan, and sometimes that risk backfires. Last year in the semifinals Maryland decided to do their best to shut down Uconn three point sharpshooter Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, only to have Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart demolish the Terps in the paint in a 20 point blowout. Yesterday, with the Beavers being clear underdogs despite a solid season, they decided to direct their defensive focus on Stewart. It may have seemed like a good idea seeing as Stewart is three time player of the year and Final Four MOP. And it worked-Stewart had only two points at halftime and was playing tentatively with two early fouls. Except that it really didn’t as Stewart’s classmate Tuck went off for 21 points on eight of thirteen shooting, including four of eight from three. The Huskies went on one of their famous runs to close out the first half and took a 21 point lead going into the break. And as I predicted, the Beavers didn’t have the firepower to come back-the lead was never close to single digits again. The only sour note for Uconn is that freshman starter Katie Lou Samuelson suffered a broken foot early on and won’t be available for the title game. But that’s no consolation for the Beavers, who found themselves on the wrong side of a 80-51 thrashing, the biggest blowout in women’s semifinals history.
Syracuse vs. Washington Semifinal Recap
I was disappointed in the Huskies’ performance in this one. The Orange stuck to their game plan, shooting a ridiculous amount of threes (33), hitting about a third (12), but making up for the percentages by chasing down numerous misses (the Orange out-rebounded Washington 46-28). In my Final Four preview I likened the Huskies to George Mason and VCU in the men’s game. Well the Huskies proved to be just like all the double digit seeds in the men’s Finals-it was an inspired run in the regionals, but in the end they just didn’t have the talent to compete on the game’s biggest stage. As for the players I hyped up, Plum and Osahor: Osahor had all of three points and Plum staggered to five of eighteen shooting. The two also combined for eleven turnovers. The team as a whole turned it over 18 times, often making poor decisions against an unrelenting press. A bright spot for UW was the performance of Senior Talia Walton, who had a fine last hurrah with 29 points on eight threes on nine attempts, a record for most threes in a Final Four game. But it wasn’t nearly enough as the Orange took a big lead early and cruised to a 80-59 victory. It was a good run for UW, but I’m not very optimistic about their chances for getting back here anytime soon. In the end it may be a “one shining moment” run.
Uconn-Syracuse Final Preview
Syracuse may only be a #4 seed, but I think they’re a better match-up against Uconn than OSU. They remind me a lot of the DePaul team that gave the Huskies a good fight earlier this year-they run a well designed press the entire game, have plenty of fresh legs off the bench to keep the pressure on, and shoot plenty of threes. With Samuelson’s injury, it will be interesting to see how the Huskies hold up late in the game with the main rotation being down to six main players. But in the end there’s too much history going against the Orange. Uconn is 10-0 all time in title games and hasn’t lost a game this decade against a team they haven’t played in the preceding two years. I think Syracuse has to be really kicking themselves for not playing Uconn this year for Stewart’s homecoming game, instead choosing to play the likes of Morgan State and Coppin State. It’s just too hard to beat Uconn the first time-it takes a few trials to get a feeling of what it’s like to play the game’s top dog. Had Uconn played South Carolina or Notre Dame in this one, I think those teams would be a bit more prepared. Syracuse is a worthy challenger, but their lack of experience against Uconn and in the Final Four will prove to be too big an impediment to overcome. Uconn takes their eleventh title and fourth in a row.
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