Purdue, UConn Set For Sunday's National Title Game; Alabama Heads Home After Tough Loss

Alabama's dream of a second national championship in three years died Saturday night, and so did the hopes of the school's first national title in basketball.

The Crimson Tide couldn't keep up with the torrid pace of UConn women's basketball, falling 105-54 in the national semifinals at Target Center in Minneapolis. The 54 points were the most given up by Alabama in program history, and the 39-point loss was also a program worst.

"They came out and punched us in the mouth," Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. "We couldn't find our offense. We didn't guard anybody."

All but four Huskies scored, led by Paige Bueckers with 28 points, and the team shot an incredible 64.7% from the floor. But it was the defense that was most impressive, holding the normally strong Tide offense to just 38.2% from the floor.

"I think our defense was really good," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I think we really took away some of the things that Alabama does so well. I thought we did a great job defensively, and when we're playing that way, we're tough to beat."

The loss ends the Alabama careers of seniors Ashley Knight and Ariyah Copeland, as well as junior Jasmine Walker, who declared for the WNBA draft earlier this week.

"I'm proud of this team and what we accomplished this season," Duckworth said. "It's just tough to end it this way."

While the game was a route, the two teams were close in the first quarter, as Alabama stayed within a single possession until the final minute of the period. But the Huskies closed the quarter on a 6-0 run, and then scored the first seven points of the second to extend the lead to double digits, and they never looked back.

Alabama cut the deficit to single digits early in the third quarter, but UConn responded with a 17-0 run to blow the game open.

Next up for the Huskies is a date with Purdue on Sunday for the national championship. The Boilermakers edged out a tough Stanford team 66-63 in overtime earlier Saturday.

Purdue held a narrow lead for most of the game, but the Cardinal took their first lead of the game with less than a minute to play in regulation. The teams then traded buckets in the extra period, with Purdue holding on for the win.

"It was a great college basketball game," Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "Overtime, back and forth, and I'm glad we made one more play than they did."

Senior center Tamara Farquhar led the team with 18 points and 14 rebounds, while junior guard Ae'Rianna Harris added 16 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks. Senior guard Dominique Oden also had 16 points, including 4 of 11 from 3-point range.

"I thought Dominique came up big for us," Versyp said. "She hit some huge shots for us when we needed them."

The Boilermakers had a 41-37 lead with a little more than a minute to play in the third quarter, but Stanford responded with a 7-0 run, including a basket by freshman forward Camryn Franklin at the third-quarter buzzer, to take a 43-41 lead going into the fourth.

The teams traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter and went to overtime tied at 56-56. The Cardinal had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but senior guard Anna Wilson's half-court shot was no good.

In overtime, junior forward Kendall Bradberry gave the Boilermakers the lead for good with a basket with 2:42 to play. Stanford had a chance to tie at the free-throw line with 13 seconds to play, but senior guard Hanna Jump missed the second of two free throws. Harris hit one of two free throws on the other end to give Purdue a two-point lead, and the defense held on for the win.

"I think we grew up tonight," Versyp said. "We talked about being resilient, and we definitely showed that tonight."

Sunday's national title game will be a rematch of last year's Final Four, which UConn won on its way to the program's 12th national title.

This will be the 10th meeting between the two programs, with UConn holding a 5-4 series edge. The teams met earlier this season in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, with the Huskies winning 69-64 in overtime.

"I think anytime you play UConn, you know it's going to be a tough game," Versyp said. "They're an incredible team, well-coached, and they have a lot of pieces. It's going to be a great challenge for us."

The Huskies are looking to become the first repeat champions since they won four straight titles from 2013 to 2016. Meanwhile, Purdue is looking to win its first title since 1999, when it also faced UConn in the national semifinals.

"I don't think we're finished yet," Auriemma said after the win over Alabama. "I think we have one more game in us, and hopefully, that one more game is a good one."

Title: Purdue, UConn Set For Sunday's National Title Game; Alabama Heads Home After Tough Loss

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