Syracuse women beat Washington 80-59, reach NCAA title game
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Syracuse just followed the normal plan Sunday night and the Orange are one win from a national championship.
With its strong 3-point shooting barrage challenging Washington's defense and full-court pressure forcing miscue after miscue, the Huskies finally cracked.
Alexis Patterson scored 18 points, and Brittney Sykes added 17 to help the Orange roll past the surprising Huskies 80-59 and right into their first women's national title game.
''When you get those type of steals and come out in the second half and you become hungrier and start to turn them over and start to get the ball and you want them more and you understand what's at stake is you can go home, and that puts fear in you,'' Sykes said. ''You want to go out and you want to give your all for 40 minutes because you don't want those to be the last 40 minutes.''
Not a chance now.
The next goal is to end UConn's historic run on Tuesday night. The three-time defending champs rolled to their 74th consecutive win with a 29-point blowout over Pac-12 champion Oregon State, the largest margin ever in the national semifinals. One more would give UConn a record fourth straight title and another perfect season.
With Syracuse's blowout, it marked the first time since 1995 - and only the third time in Final Four history - that each of the two games were decided by 20 or more points.
How did Syracuse (30-7) get here?
''They brought us out of our zone early by making (3-point) shots, ran us out of our zone, which is our bread-and-butter,'' Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. ''They were hot down the stretch. Not doing anything they haven't been doing for the last month."
The outmanned Huskies (26-11) couldn't keep up.
Talia Walton led Washington with 29 points and made her first eight 3-pointers to break the single-game record at a Final Four. The previous mark of six was set by Katie Steding in the 1990 title game and matched in 2013 by Antonita Slaughter.
Third-team All-American Kelsey Plum, the nation's No. 3 scorer, had a rough night. She scored 17 points, was 5 of 18 from the field and wound up with six turnovers in 40 minutes.
''I felt like the thing that they did best was they really, really made it hard on her for 40 minutes,'' Neighbors said. ''I wasn't much help to her tonight, because we kept putting it in her hands and I knew she was tired and I knew she had been stressed like she hadn't been stressed all year. So a lot of the shooting was because I couldn't give her a break.''
In their first meeting this season, Syracuse took a 21-point lead before Washington rallied to within one. The Orange held on for a 66-62 victory in November.
This time, Syracuse never let it get close.
When Washington cut the halftime deficit to 43-31, Peterson hit a 3 to start a 9-4 spurt that made it 52-35. When the Huskies got within 11, Syracuse used a 15-2 run to make it 67-43. And when Washington closed to 72-59 midway through the fourth quarter, Sykes and Brianna Butler made back-to-back 3s to seal it.
Butler finished with four 3s to set the NCAA's single-season record with 128. Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell made 127 last season.
''I actually didn't know I was that close to beating it,'' Butler said. ''I was just focused on advancing and getting a chance to play for a championship.''
And by sticking to the plan, they will get that chance Tuesday night.
''Our players did what we asked them to do,'' Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. ''They competed at a high level. They pushed the pace, pushed the tempo. And that's the difference in the game. We just wanted to get up and down and play fast.''
The two teams came into the night averaging 16.2 3-pointers. They nearly matched that total in the first half and wound up combining for 23. Syracuse made 12 and broke UConn's 15-year-old record most 3-point attempts in a Final Four game. The Orange had 33 attempts, three more than UConn had in a semifinal game against Notre Dame. Washington finished 11 of 25. Until Sunday, only two teams had ever made 11 in a Final Four game.
Syracuse: Butler scored 12 points and Cornelia Fondren had 10. ... The Orange outrebounded Washington 46-28 including 17-7 on the offensive glass. Syracuse also had scoring advantages of 20-9 in points off turnovers and 17-7 on second-chance points. ... Former football star Floyd Little attended the game.
Washington: Plum fell eight points short of breaking Chiney Ogwumike's Pac-12 single-season record (967). ... Chantel Osahor scored only 3 points on 1-of-6 shooting but grabbed 14 rebounds. ... The Huskies had 18 turnovers after being forced into 19 in the first meeting. ... Neighbors and Hillsman, who are friends, spent about the final 15 seconds of the game shaking hands near midcourt.