South Carolina beats Paige Bueckers, UConn 64-49 to win NCAA title at Target Center

Paige Bueckers #5 of the UConn Huskies and LeLe Grissett #24 of the South Carolina Gamecocks battle for the ball during the second quarter during the 2022 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament National Championship game at Target Center on April 03, 202 ((Photo by Elsa/Getty Images))

Paige Bueckers did everything she could, but South Carolina denied her a national championship in front of her hometown fans Sunday night at Target Center.

The Gamecocks dominated the rebounding battle, played suffocating defense and got a career game from Destanni Henderson in a 64-49 win over the Huskies to win the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship. It’s Geno Auriemma's first loss in the national championship game in 12 appearances.

Bueckers, the former Hopkins star, was denied an NCAA title for the second straight year and a title win at Target Center for the second time. The last time she played for a championship at Target Center, it was 2018 and the Hopkins Royals lost 68-63 to Eastview. Bueckers was on the way to winning a state title in 2020 before the championship game was canceled due to COVID-19.

Bueckers led UConn to the Final Four last year, but the Huskies lost their semifinal game in an upset to Arizona.

Bueckers led the Huskies with 14 points Sunday night, adding six rebounds and two assists. But she didn't take a shot in the first quarter, finished with nine in the second and had just five in the second half. The Gamecocks stayed in front of Bueckers, wouldn't let her get into a flow and she rarely got an open look.

"South Carolina is a great team, they played a great game. Kudos to them," Bueckers said after the loss. 

The night was about Henderson, who scored a game-high 26 points. She added four assists and three steals, and played suffocating defense on Bueckers most of the night. Aaliyah Boston, the National Player of the Year, added 11 points and 16 rebounds for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks jumped out to early leads of 11-2 and 22-8, and never took the foot off the gas with a wire-to-wire victory. South Carolina out-rebounded UConn 25-13 in the first half, including getting 16 offensive rebounds that turned into 16 second chance points.

The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Huskies 49-24 for the game, collected 21 offensive rebounds and forced UConn into 15 turnovers. The Huskies got as close as 43-37 before South Carolina pulled away. The Gamecocks became the 12th team to go wire-to-wire in winning a national championship, and be the No. 1 team in the Associated Poll the entire season.

UConn shot 40 percent from the field, and just 4-of-16 (25 percent) from the perimeter. Bueckers was the only player in double figures, as Aaliyah Edwards and Caroline Ducharme combined for 17 points on 7-of-19 shooting.

The Huskies season finishes at 30-6, and with Bueckers still seeking her first national championship.

"It was an amazing weekend just being able to be here with my team and spend more time with each other, build more memories and doing it at home was amazing. I mean nobody in my position would be happy right now so I’m obviously upset just with the way things ended," Bueckers said. "I’m super proud of this team for how far we’ve come and all the adversity we dealt with, all that we’ve overcome to get to this point. But at UConn, it’s national championship or nothing so obviously upset, frustrated, disappointed. Just wish things could’ve gone differently for the seniors."