South Carolina defeats UConn to win 2022 national title: Updates and highlights

Destanni Henderson in the 2022 women's basketball national championship game
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On Sunday night, South Carolina defeated UConn to win the 2022 women’s basketball national title.

Both UConn and South Carolina’s women’s basketball teams entered tonight’s game at the Target Center undefeated in NCAA national championship games (UConn with 11 titles, South Carolina with one). That said, no player on either UConn or South Carolina’s roster had ever competed in a national championship game.

Throughout the game, On Her Turf provided live updates and highlights. See below to relive how the 2022 national championship game unfolded.


Live Updates: South Carolina vs. UConn – 2022 National Championship Game

UConn starting lineup:

  • Aaliyah Edwards
  • Paige Bueckers
  • Christyn Williams
  • Olivia Nelson-Ododa
  • Azzi Fudd

South Carolina starting lineup:

  • Zia Cooke
  • Destanni Henderson
  • Aliyah Boston
  • Victaria Saxton
  • Brea Beal

South Carolina vs. UConn: Live updates from the first quarter:

9:38 1Q: And the 2022 women’s basketball national championship game is underway! South Carolina gets on the board first with a three-pointer from Destanni Henderson.

6:35 1Q: Geno’s expression says it all. Less than four minutes in, South Carolina leads 11-2, due in part to FIVE(!) offensive rebounds, three from Aliyah Boston.

2:52 1Q: Zia Cooke looks so confident. She has eight points so far in tonight’s championship game, including a nice layup just now to put South Carolina up 17-4.

0:00 1Q: Wow. At the end of the first quarter, South Carolina leads UConn 22-8. Stat of the game so far: rebounding. South Carolina currently has a 12-3 advantage with rebounds, including 7 offensive rebounds to zero from UConn.

As Geno Auriemma just told ESPN’s Holly Rowe, “We either rebound, or it’s going to get worse than this.”


South Carolina vs. UConn: Highlights from the second quarter:

6:57 2Q: Paige Bueckers with some really pretty dribbling to make it a…. 14-point game (video below).

03:58 2Q: With Aliyah Boston subbed out, UConn is able to make a bit of a dent. Carolina Ducharme makes it 21-32 just now.

1:25 2Q: Aliyah Boston is back in, but UConn is on a nine-point run! Evina Westbrook cuts South Carolina’s lead to seven points.

0:00 2Q: At the end of the first half, South Carolina leads UConn with a score of 35-27. The Huskies actually outscored the Gamecocks during the second quarter, 19-13.  That includes nine points from Paige Bueckers, who didn’t record a point during the first quarter.

Also of note: Azzi Fudd started the game for UConn, but subbed out five minutes into the first quarter and hasn’t gone back in. According to the ESPN broadcast, she missed shootaround earlier today due to illness.


South Carolina vs. UConn – Third quarter live updates:

10:00 3Q: Azzi Fudd is back in. ESPN’s Holly Rowe reports that “a bug” has been going around the UConn team, and notes that Evina Westbrook was seen limping at halftime. UConn already has a short roster, with just 10 players dressed tonight compared to 15 for South Carolina.

9:00 3Q: Interesting stat from basketball expert Howard Megdal, founder and editor of The Next:

7:40 3Q: Uh, can we talk about this block from Paige Bueckers?

1:30 3Q: Back-to-back three-pointers for UConn, first from Caroline Ducharme, then from Evina Westbrook (video below). It’s a six-point game; South Carolina leads with a score of 43-37.

1:18 3Q: If UConn manages to come back and win, it will mark the largest comeback in national championship history. While it’s currently a six-point game, the Huskies trailed by 18 earlier tonight.

0:24 3Q: Beautiful play from Destanni Henderson just now (video below). With 14 points so far, Henderson currently leads all scorers in tonight’s championship game.

0:00 3Q: At the end of the third quarter, South Carolina leads UConn with a score of 46-37.


South Carolina vs. UConn – Live updates from the fourth quarter:

8:02 4Q: Destanni Henderson is ON FIRE. While she hasn’t yet declared, the senior is making a pretty solid case for herself one week ahead of the 2022 WNBA draft (April 11).

2022 WNBA Draft: Which players opted in, how the WNBA Draft works and more

4:18 4Q: Can you imagine scoring a career high in the national championship game? And oh, by the way, you’re a senior? Hello, Destanni Henderson! Wow wow wow. She has 24 points so far tonight.

0:00 4Q: What a performance from South Carolina. The Gamecocks defeat UConn 64-49 to win the 2022 national title. Destanni Henderson finishes the night with 26 points. Aliyah Boston recorded 16 rebounds. It’s the second national title for the program, both coming under the leadership of head coach Dawn Staley (2017, 2022).


Post-game highlights:

Can we talk about this moment when Aliyah Boston – after being named “Most Outstanding Player – shouted out Candace Parker? A few minutes earlier, Boston could be overheard on the mic saying “That’s my idol over there!”

Love this video of Dawn Staley dancing with the national championship trophy… and former Gamecocks player A’ja Wilson filming the moment!

Dawn Staley has another netlace!

Need a refresher? Here’s a story from the archives: Dawn Staley sends piece of 2017 championship net to every Black women’s basketball coach


How to watch UConn and South Carolina in tonight’s women’s basketball national championship game:

Teams Time (ET) TV Channel Location
South Carolina vs. UConn 8 p.m. ESPN Minneapolis, Minnesota

2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament: March Madness results and scores


What’s at stake for UConn women’s basketball:

  • While this is UConn’s 14th straight Final Four appearance, this is the first time the Huskies will compete in the NCAA women’s basketball championship game since 2016. That year, UConn won a fourth straight NCAA title.
  • UConn will be aiming to win its 12th women’s basketball national title in program history, all earned under head coach Geno Auriemma, beginning in 1995.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Aliyah Boston powers South Carolina to 2022 title gameUConn defeats Stanford to make first championship appearance since 2016

History on the line for the South Carolina Gamecocks:

  • Tonight will mark South Carolina’s second time in the women’s basketball national championship game. The Gamecocks emerged victorious in their only other appearance (2017), defeating Mississippi State 67-55. Head coach Dawn Staley led that team, too.

RELATED: Dawn Staley aims for ‘generational impact’ ahead of South Carolina’s fourth Final Four appearance


What they’re saying ahead of the UConn vs. South Carolina national championship game:

Dawn Staley on South Carolina (1-for-1) and UConn (11-for-11) both being undefeated in national championship games:

“We can talk about the numbers, but the numbers give them no edge. The numbers aren’t going to give us an edge. Our season, the great season that we’ve had, it’s not going to give us an edge tomorrow. We’ve got to play it. They’ve got to play it because we’re not going to be thinking about — (Geno) is not going to be thinking about, oh, we’re 11-0. We got the 12th one in the bag. We’re not going to think, oh, here’s UConn. We’re going to automatically win. You can’t go into games thinking that way. You’ve got to play. And we’re going to play off of this year. We’re not going to play their history.”

RELATED: NCAA basketball won’t have ‘true equity’ until women’s teams get paid like the men

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma on coaching against Dawn Staley and the two teams’ undefeated records in national championship games:

“I think her team has a great chance to win a National Championship. I think my team has a chance to win a National Championship. But in terms of me personally or Dawn personally, I don’t think either of us — at least I don’t. I don’t want to speak for Dawn. But I feel like once this game starts, once you get to tip-off, you kind of relinquish about 80% of the control to the players, and they now have the ability to win it or they don’t. And you can coach the best game of your life and lose. You can make the most mistakes you’ve ever made coaching a game, and your team will find a way to win.”

Geno Auriemma on UConn’s game plan to contain Aliyah Boston:

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that she might be the hardest person in America to guard. She scores if there’s one, two, three, four people on her. It doesn’t matter. She’s able to carve out the space she wants. She gets the ball on the rim whenever she wants. She rebounds whichever ball she goes after. She just has a knack.

“And I think when you can anchor your team with that, then you can go into every game as a coach pretty confident that you might not have other pieces working that day, but you got that piece working. That’s the most important. I think she’s the most important person in the country in terms of what she does for her team.

“How do we guard her? I don’t know. I’m open for suggestions.”

Aliyah Boston on what it was like to play in front of 18,000 fans at the Target Center during Friday’s Final Four game:

“You think about people on social media and they always have something to say about women’s basketball. Nobody watches it, nobody really cares.

“I mean, 18,000 people last night for March Madness was amazing. Looking at the little girls in the stands, it’s like, wow, we are really helping young girls. Because, I mean, we were in those stands. I remember being in the stands watching the Final Four games.

“To be playing and girls coming up to me after games asking me to sign something or take a picture, it’s like we’re really making an impact and women’s basketball is something that’s going to continue to grow.”

RELATED: Aliyah Boston on South Carolina’s record-breaking defense: ‘We take pride in that’

Paige Bueckers on how UConn has evolved since losing to South Carolina, 73-57, in the Bahamas in November:

“I think we’re a lot more confident team. I think we’re more a team that understands their roles and I think different people have had to step up. I think we’re a team that’s going to use their depth more and we’re much more confident team. Everybody knows their roles and what they have to deal with. I think we’re a completely different team than the first time we played.”


Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
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Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.


USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders(7):

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”