The Arizona-Stanford final of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament hit over five million viewers on ESPN. Arizona’s senior guard Aari McDonald’s highly contested buzzer-beater attempt is all fans are talking about.
Led by great coaches and star players, the final outcome came down to the last seconds of the game. Stanford, who was the No. 1 seed overall heading into this year’s tournament, won 19 games in a row coming into the championship game.
Arizona, a No. 3 seeded team, made the Final Four as the only non-No.1 team and defeated the incredible University of Connecticut team led by AP Player of the Year Paige Bueckers.
The two Pac-12 teams in the championship game had played each other before. Stanford had the advantage, winning both games during the regular season.
Arizona had a chance to win in the final seconds; however, Aari McDonald couldn’t sink a final jumper. Stanford held off Arizona to win 54-53 and claim their third national title and their first title since 1992. They are tied with Baylor for third-most national championships. Only UConn and Tennessee have more in women’s history.
Sophomore guard Haley Jones led the way for Stanford, finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds. Jones was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Junior guard Lexie Hull had a 10-point and 10-rebound double-double. Freshman forward, Cameron Brink, also had 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
Sunday was a tough loss for Arizona’s McDonald who had 22 points but missed out on crucial opportunities, shooting 5-20 from the field. Junior guard, Shaina Pellington, stepped up in a way that no other Wildcat did, scoring 15 points off the bench. Tough defence from Stanford made it difficult for most Wildcats to get a basket throughout most the game.
A year after the cancellation of both men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the landscape of women’s college basketball has changed dramatically: Postponements, game cancellations and teams opting out of their seasons or conferences, never getting to play a single game.
Stanford was forced to move away from campus, forcing the Cardinals to relocate for two months due to regulations in Santa Clara County, Calif. With delays and COVID-19 protocols, this season stands as one of the most interesting seasons of women’s college basketball in history.
All 63 games of this year’s tournament were played in Indianapolis and San Antonio with record-breaking ratings and outstanding games throughout the course of three weeks. A bright future is ahead for women’s basketball professionally, collegiately and worldwide.