PARADISE ISLAND,BS-On Nov. 20, UConn took on the University of Minnesota to mark the start of a new era, bringing women’s basketball to the Bahamas for the first time in the 11-year history of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.
The 12-game tournament started off with a matchup between the NO 2 UConn Huskies and the unranked Minnesota Gophers. UConn hit the ground running scoring twelve points before Minnesota’s Deja Winter’s hit a three-pointer to get Minnesota on the board. Minnesota would battle back and cut UConn’s led to one after a made three-pointers by Sara Scalia with just under five minutes to play in the first half. That wouldn’t be enough as UConn would outscore Minnesota 41-23 in the second half giving them the 88-58 victory. UConn’s Christyn Williams would have a game-high of 31 points. William was 12-14 from the field, 3-4 from the three-point line and a perfect 4-4 from the foul line.
NO 23 South Florida Bulls took on Syracuse Orange for their first game of the tournament. After being down 18-13 at the end of the first quarter, the Bulls would outscore the Orange 20-8 in the second quarter giving them a 33-26 advantage at the half. The Orange would not be able to make the comeback and fall to 0-1 in the tournament after losing 77-53 to South Florida. Bethy Mununga would have a game-high of 18 points followed closely by teammates Sydni Harvey and Elena Tsineke who each had 17.
In the third matchup of the day, the NO 9 Oregon Ducks played the Oklahoma Sooners. It was a back-and-forth game the entire time. Oklahoma had a 44-35 advantage after two-quarters of play, but Oregon wasn’t going to give up that easily. Despite losing the three previous quarters the Ducks scored 38 points in the fourth quarter and would take the lead over the Sooners with the go-ahead shot from Ahlise Hurst with a minute and a half left in the game. The Ducks would keep their lead and get the win over Oklahoma, 98-93. Nyara was the highest scorer of the game with 30 going 11-19 from the field, 1-1 from behind the arch and 7-8 from the free-throw line. Oklahoma’s Taylor Robinson would lead the Sooners with 29 points.
The last game of the first round belonged to No 1 South Carolina and unranked University of Buffalo. South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston would score the first 3 field goals of the game giving South Carolina a 6-0 lead. South Carolina’s Laeticia Amihere made a layup as time expired to give the Gamecocks a 10-point lead going into halftime. Buffalo wouldn’t be able to keep up with the number one team in the country losing 88-60. South Carolina had three players in double digits. Aliyah Boston had 23 points, 19 of which were in the first half alone and 7 rebounds, leading the Gamecocks, followed by teammates Destanni Henderson with 14 points and Kamilla Cardoso contributing 12 points from off the bench.
After winning a close second-round game with South Florida (60-53), NO 2 UConn advanced to the championship game where they would take on NO 1 South Carolina who convincing beat Oregon 80-63 in their second-round matchup. This game was a high-profile match-up. So much so that the Associated Press delayed the release of its Top 25 teams. They had only done that once before in their entire history. Not only did this game decide who would be the champions of the first-ever Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, but this game decided which team was the best in the nation. Even though the game was played at noon on a Monday, it drew in over 600,000 viewers, becoming the second most-watched game of the season. And this matchup certainly wouldn’t disappoint.
UConn won the tip-off but missed a jump shot allowing South Carolina a chance to claim the first points of the game. Zia Cooke made a three-pointer off Aliyah Boston’s defensive rebound to give the Gamecocks the early lead. With only a second remaining in the first quarter, Boston made a jump shot with time expiring to cut UConn’s lead to six. South Carolina would go into halftime only down by 3. The Gamecocks came out of half-time on fire and reclaimed the lead at the end of the third quarter. No one knows what South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said to her team at the start of the fourth quarter but whatever she did it worked. South Carolina held UConn to only three points in the entire fourth quarter. The Gamecocks outscored the Huskies 16-3 to give them a 73-57 win over the number two ranked team. South Carolina was led by Aliyah Boston with 22 points and 15 rebounds, and the Huskies were led by Paige Bueckers who had 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Next year, Louisville, Tennessee, and Gonzaga are among the 8 teams that will make the trip to the Bahamas and battle it out to see who will claim the next Battle 4 Atlantis title starting Nov 19.