For the fourth time in eight years, UTSA, the Alamodome, and San Antonio are playing host to the NCAA Final Four—a testament to the culture and zeal alive and well in the River City.
In addition to the women’s semifinal and national championship games, the city is bustling with activities of the final leg of women’s March Madness. Tourney Town Concerts featuring the Atlantics, Joe Nichols, Kate Voegele and Ayla Brown; a Battle of the Bands; and the WBCA High School All-America Game presented by Nike were just a few of this weekend’s events.
This year’s Final Four featured No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Stanford in the first semifinal game and No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 4 Baylor in the second semifinal game on Sunday night.
Inside the Alamodome 25,817 fans watched in boisterous support. Analysts and Baylor alums Trey Wingo, Kara Lawson and Carolyn Peck occupied an ESPN studio while banners dawning messages such as “High Quality of Play,” “Fundamentals,” “Role Models” and “Sportsmanship” hung from the third level.
Stanford 73, Oklahoma 66
In the first semifinal game, Stanford dominated Oklahoma in the first half, creating a 34-21 advantage heading into the break. After making only 8-32 in the first half, the Sooners found themselves climbing out of a hole for much of the second half.
The hole would prove to be insurmountable as the Cardinals controlled most of the game, particularly in the frontcourt. The Sooners, who trailed by as many as 18 points with 6:47 remaining in the second half, clawed their way to within four, 66-62, with 1:31 left on the clock.
But the Cardinal forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike totaled seven of her game-high 38 points in the final 51 seconds –including 5-5 from the free throw line. Stanford, who is making their third straight Final Four appearance, shot over 41 percent from the floor in the first half, 39 percent on the game. In what would prove to be the difference, Stanford out-rebounded Oklahoma 53 to 41 and totaled 42 points in the paint compared to Oklahoma’s 30.
Danielle Robinson led the Sooners with 23 points, while hauling six boards and dishing six assists. In the end, Ogwumike was too much for Oklahoma; in addition to her 38 points, Ogwumike grabbed 16 rebounds while making 12-13 from the charity stripe.
“We did not have an answer for Nneka [Oqwumike] all night long,” said Oklahoma Head Coach Sherri Coale. “We just made some bad decisions and found ourselves in a hole.”
Connecticut 70, Baylor 50
The Connecticut Huskies entered this year’s tournament as one of the most feared teams in the history of women’s basketball–a status they have undoubtedly earned by maintaining a perfect mark of 37-0, and a NCAA record of winning 76 consecutive games. UConn won its first four tourney games by an average of 47 points per game (ppg).
Baylor freshman center Brittney Griner led the Bears averaging 18.6 ppg on the season; Griner set a NCAA tournament record with 35 blocks through the first four games, 14 of which came against Georgetown.
The 2009 Naismith College Player of the Year and 2010 candidate for the same award, Huskie forward Maya Moore proved why she is one of the most prolific players in the game. Moore totaled 21 points on 9-14 shooting, including 3-5 from behind the arc, and that was only in the first half.
Moore finished the day leading all scorers with 34 points while pulling 12 rebounds. The Huskies entered halftime with a 39-26 lead on the strength of shooting 47 percent from the field.
Baylor got as close as three points, 41-38, after opening the second half on a 12-2 run over the first five minutes of the half, but Huskie Head Coach Geno Auriemma wouldn’t allow his team to stand idle for long, as Connecticut held Baylor to only 12 points over the final 14:55 of the game.
UConn center Tina Charles contributed 21 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and dished four assists in the victory. Baylor forward Morghan Medlock and Griner compiled totals of 14 and 13 points and six rebounds, respectively.
If you’re looking for a reason to watch this year’s women’s National Championship game, think of Stanford like a Joe Frazier and UConn as a Muhammad Ali in a battle of college basketball titans. The Cardinals enter the game on a 27-game winning streak, and a 38-1 season; the lone loss was dealt by, the Huskies. The game which will take place April 6, just so happens to be the two-year anniversary of the Huskies’ last loss– an 82-73 defeat courtesy of Stanford.
The Cardinals will likely pay special attention to protecting the ball and limiting Connecticut’s offensive boards, as the Huskies converted 18 points off of 21 turnovers and 16 points on 14 offensive rebounds to defeat Baylor.