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NCAA women’s championship game South Carolina shuts down U-Conn. in final

South Carolina claimed its second national title in program history with a dominating win over Connecticut. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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Top-seeded South Carolina triumphed over No. 2 Connecticut on Sunday, claiming the national title with a dominant 64-49 win in the NCAA women’s tournament final in Minneapolis.

It’s the second national championship for Gamecocks Coach Dawn Staley, who also led South Carolina to the title in 2017. The Huskies lost for the first time in 12 national championship game appearances.

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The Gamecocks raced out to an early lead in the first half, and behind a career-high 26 points from Destanni Henderson, pulled away in the second half for the win.

Continue reading for Sunday’s highlights from March Madness.

What to know about the national championship game

10:17 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
South Carolina dominated from start to finish. The Gamecocks were tenacious on the offensive boards early and never let up, ending the game with a 20-6 advantage on the offensive glass. It was such an advantage that they didn’t need to be proficient from behind the three-point line, shooting just 3 for 16 from the arc. South Carolina also had 49 total rebounds, giving them 294 total rebounds in the tournament, a new record.Connecticut played well in spots but ultimately couldn’t overcome its slow start in the first quarter. The Huskies were outscored 22-8 in the opening frame and had a nearly five-minute stretch without scoring a basket. They also shot a measly 4 for 16 behind the three-point line, their first successful attempt not occurring until the fourth quarter.
9:56 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
Destanni Henderson is putting on a show. She has 18 points, nine from three-point attempts, plus four assists, two rebounds and three steals. This is just a continuation of the star guard’s season. She earned a player efficiency rating of 19.3 heading into this contest (80th percentile) and was credited with 7.7 wins shares for her efforts by Her Hoop Stats (98th percentile).
9:50 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
Paige Bueckers got a breather at the end of the third quarter and will need to come up big for Connecticut in the final frame. Meanwhile, Caroline Ducharme has put together a solid stat line for herself: seven points, one rebound and a steal. Plus, the Huskies are plus-12 in net point differential during the 12 minutes she has been on the court.
9:35 p.m.
Headshot of Neil Greenberg
Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
Neither of these teams can be considered underdogs, but when you look at how underdogs turn the tide on favorites it is usually via two machinations: better three-point shooting or creating extra possessions from offensive rebounds and turnovers. South Carolina is leading Connecticut in offensive rebounds, 18 to 4, and is shooting better from behind the arc. The Gamecocks have made 3 of 8 while the Huskies are 0 for 7. Connecticut also has made five more turnovers (12 to 7).That simply isn’t good enough to beat the best team in the country, even if you are one of the top teams in women’s college hoops.
9:22 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
Stat to watch: Connecticut is 0 for 6 from beyond the three-point line. It was 3 for 8 in a loss to South Carolina in November. According to Her Hoop Stats, the Huskies are 2-4 in games in which they make three or fewer three-point shots this season and 28-1 if they hit four three-pointers or more.
9:08 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
South Carolina has deployed its game plan to perfection: Get Aliyah Boston the ball down low, dominate the offensive boards and draw defenders inside for uncontested three-point attempts. The Gamecocks are also on pace for 32 offensive rebounds (they have 16 at the half), which would eclipse the 22 offensive boards by Connecticut in 2014 for most in a championship game since 2010.Connecticut doesn’t seem to have an answer for Boston. She’s halfway to a double-double with five points and five rebounds, despite Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Aaliyah Edwards and Evina Westbrook trying as defenders. Westbrook in particular should struggle in this role — she allowed 18 points on 18 shots defending the post this season. Plus, Paige Bueckers has struggled. She had zero points in the first quarter and just one attempt from behind the three-point line.
8:55 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
Connecticut isn’t a high-volume three-point shooting team and tonight is no different. The Huskies have just two attempts behind the arc so far. South Carolina, however, has been pounding the ball inside with success, so that has opened the perimeter for Destanni Henderson. She is a 40 percent shooter behind the arc and is 3 for 3 on three-point attempts tonight.
8:47 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
South Carolina scored almost 1.2 points per put back off offensive rebounds this season, just a few teams were more efficient off the offensive glass. The Gamecocks have 12 offensive rebounds tonight and 14 points off those second-chance opportunities. The Huskies have yet to grab an offensive rebound of their own.
8:41 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
Connecticut will need both Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards to play physical against Aliyah Boston in the paint. Nelson-Ododa limited opponents to a field goal rate of 36 percent in the post this season, per Synergy Sports, but with two fouls assessed in the first quarter it could limit her effectiveness, giving Boston more room to work.
8:33 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
Paige Bueckers, the reigning player of the year, is usually a dynamo on the court, whether it is handling the ball on the pick-and-roll, taking the shot via a hand off or running the court in transition. So far, she has few marks in the box score for Connecticut. One shot attempt (a miss), one defensive rebound and no assists.Connecticut managed to play well during her absence early in the season but it will need all its stars to step up to have a chance against South Carolina.
8:26 p.m.
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Reporter analyzing advanced sports statistics for The Washington Post
South Carolina is dominating the boards early. They headed into this match up grabbing 46 percent of their offensive rebounding opportunities per Her Hoop Stats — no other Division I team had higher than 43 percent — and have five offensive rebounds early in the game. They also have three defensive rebounds. Connecticut has one total rebound.
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