Kingston, RI, United States (AHN Sports) – Connecticut and Notre Dame will meet once again as the Big East rivals advanced to the women’s Final Four with convincing victories Tuesday night in the NCAA Tournament.
Senior Tiffany Hayes scored 22 points and top-seed Connecticut crushed the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats 80-65 in the Kingston Regional final.
Notre Dame earned its second straight Final Four berth by topping the No. 2 Maryland Terrapins 80-49 in the Raleigh Regional final thanks to Skylar Diggins’ triple-double of 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
Hayes, who was selected most outstanding player of the regional, also had eight boards, three assists and two steals for the Huskies, who are in the Final Four for the fifth straight season.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 18 points, Stefanie Dolson scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Bria Hartley also had 13 points for UConn (33-4).
The Huskies shot 52 percent from the field and were 11-of-13 from the foul line but only had a 41-39 lead at halftime.
Connecticut carried the momentum in the second half, while turning up its vaunted suffocating defense to pull away.
For the game, the Huskies shot 51.1 percent from the field and held a 40-26 advantage in the rebounding battle. UConn also posted 21 assists to Kentucky’s eight.
Samarie Walker led the way for the Wildcats (28-7) with 14 points. Bria Goss chipped in 12 and Kastine Evans had 10 markers in defeat.
The Huskies, who are back in the Final Four for the 13th time in the last 18 years, will face the Irish Sunday in Denver in a rematch of last season’s national semifinal game which was taken by the Irish.
It will also mark the fourth time the two schools will meet this season, with Notre Dame winning the first two meetings and the Huskies taking the Big East Tournament championship game.
Notre Dame will enter the Final Four on a roll after demolishing Maryland.
Natalie Achonwa added 18 points while Kayla McBride had 16 and Natalie Novosel finished with 14 for Notre Dame, which took a 40-21 lead into halftime after hitting 42.9 percent of its field goal attempts and converting 8-of-10 at the charity stripe in the opening half.
The top-seeded Fighting Irish continued the onslaught in the second half against the overwhelmed Terps as they hit a scorching 56.7 percent shooting clip in the final 20 minutes to extend their lead.
Alyssa Thomas had 17 points and six boards to pace Maryland (31-5), which failed to clinch it first Final Four trip since winning the 2006 national title.