Syracuse beat Washington, 80-59, in a national semifinal at the Women's Final Four on Sunday night, ending one surprising NCAA Tournament run and preserving another.
The No. 4-seeded Orange advanced to face a Goliath Connecticut team for the national championship at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday, while the No. 7 Huskies ran out of tournament magic in the final game of their season. They reached Indianapolis by making an improbable dash through the tournament's Lexington Region, including wins against the region's second, third and fourth seeds.
Syracuse gained the upper hand early against Washington and never looked too far back. The Orange grabbed a double-digit lead after the first quarter, and they kept an occasionally plucky Washington team at arm's length from there. They scored with balance all night, as six players had at least 7 points. Alex Petersen led the Orange with 18.
In a losing effort, Washington's Talia Walton filled the basket with three-pointers. She shot 8-of-9 from beyond the arc and had 29 points in total, and she deserved much better. But her teammates were a combined 3-of-16 from deep, and even a virtuoso performance from Walton couldn't save the Huskies. Guard Kelsey Plum struggled all night with efficiency, scoring 17 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
Now, Syracuse's task is simple: Beat the most dominant team in the history of the sport, which has won its five NCAA Tournament games this year by about 40 points per game. UConn hasn't just looked unbeatable so far. It's looked completely untouchable.
Syracuse will have to mount an unprecedented effort to even challenge the 37-0 Huskies. It probably won't happen, but that's part of the fun. Tuesday will either continue a remarkable stretch of Connecticut dominance with a fourth championship in four years, or Syracuse will pull off a legitimately incredible upset. Either of those is a good time.