Women's Basketball 2017 NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns

NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns
South Carolina outlasted Florida State 71-64 in the Stockton Regional Final to move on to the Final Four. Kaela Davis continued her outstanding postseason with a 23 point performance to pace the Gamecocks offensively. Tyasha Harris and A’ja Wilson added 16 points each as the starters accounted for 69 of the 71 points against the Seminoles. Offensively, South Carolina set the tone by shooting 64.3 percent in the first quarter and then they closed strong in the fourth quarter shooting 62.5 percent against a surging Florida State attack.  Defensively the Gamecocks shut down Shakayla Thomas, limiting her to just eight points and they did not allow the Seminoles to get rolling from three-point land as Florida State only knocked two three-point shots in 15 attempts.
Stanford had their back against the wall in the Lexington Regional Final against Notre Dame heading into halftime as the Fighting Irish held a 45-31 lead. However, in the second half thanks in part to a 27 point performance from Brittany McPhee, Stanford charged back for a 76-75 victory. Defense, as always, was a game changer for the Cardinal as they limited Notre Dame to just 30 second half points on 11-of-31 shooting. Karlie Samuelson and Alanna Smith combined for 30 points and Erica McCall was ferocious on the boards as she led Stanford with 11 rebounds. The comeback should give the Cardinal plenty of momentum and confidence heading into the national semifinal showdown with South Carolina as the gauntlet of the Pac-12 has been great preparation for this stage.
Keys to the game for the Gamecocks will be to get A’ja Wilson some early touches offensively with easy shot opportunities. Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray are going to have to knock down open shots when they have them as Stanford is not going to give an inch defensively. Foul trouble is also going to be big for South Carolina as they will have a very short bench with a seven player rotation and they can’t afford to get into a game with a ton of fouls getting called. For the Cardinal, they need to get the ball in Erica McCall’s hands early and often as she will be matched up on Wilson. If she can get her into foul trouble early, that would open things up for attacking the basket by the guards. Perimeter shooting will be important in order to keep the Gamecocks honest in the half-court setting.
Connecticut had no problem at all with Oregon in the Bridgeport Regional Final as the Huskies overwhelmed the Ducks 90-52.  The win for Connecticut was their 111th in a row and clinched their 10th consecutive trip to the Final Four. Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams scored 28 and 25 points, respectively, to lead a very efficient offensive performance as the Huskies shot 54.5 percent from the floor. They also did an excellent job of sharing the basketball thanks to 21 assists on 36 made field goals. Turnovers also were vital as Oregon committed 22 turnovers while Connecticut tuned the ball over only six times. This might go down as one of the best coaching jobs that head Coach Geno Auriemma and his staff has done as the Huskies have been insanely consistent with their outstanding play despite having a young roster.
Mississippi State knocked off Baylor 94-85 in overtime to win the Oklahoma City Regional. Morgan William had an epic performance with 41 points to lead the Bulldogs and they needed every last one of them as the game had 12 ties and 25 lead changes. Victoria Vivians chipped in 24 points as she went the distance playing the full 45 minutes against the Bears. Teaira McCowan held her own down low in the post scoring 10 points and collecting five rebounds. On the defensive end it was the ability to turn Baylor over that ended up helping Mississippi State. The Bears were forced into 17 turnovers, while the Bulldogs were turned over just four times. This trip to the Final Four is the culmination of a lot of hard work and belief from the senior class in the vision of head coach Vic Schaefer and this is only the beginning for this program moving forward.
Keys to the game for the Huskies will be to share the basketball offensively and get Collier, Williams, and Katie Lou Samuelson off on running at the offensive end of the court. Pressuring Mississippi State’s backcourt players is also going to be important as turnovers will launch the transition game for the Huskies and allow them to go on one of their patented runs to put the game away. For the Bulldogs, they need to have a clear mindset against Connecticut and block out the 98-38 loss to the Huskies in the Sweet 16 last year in Bridgeport. They also need to somehow create easy shots in transition and force the issue whenever they can offensively. Look for a more competitive game than last year between these two teams, but in the end Connecticut will win going away.