Samuelson scored 29 points and second-seeded UConn held off No. 1 Louisville 80-73 on Sunday in the Albany Regional Final.
“I wanted to keep my career going,” Samuelson said. “I had to step up. They were really making it hard for us, so I had to do what I could.”
The Huskies (35-2) have won six national championships and had a 111-game winning streak during their remarkable Final Four run. They will be trying to reach the title game for the first time in three years after losing on last-second shots in the last two national semifinals.
Louisville scored 10 of 11 points to cut its deficit to 75-73 with 26.6 seconds left. Samuelson then hit two free throws to make it a two-possession game.
Asia Durr was fouled a few seconds later, but the Cardinals’ senior leader missed both free throws. Napheesa Collier was fouled after the Cardinals’ missed a chance on an offensive rebound. She stepped up and sank both free throws on the other end to make it 79-73.
As the buzzer sounded, the Huskies mobbed Samuelson at the foul line, celebrating another trip to the Final Four.
“It’s amazing just to be part of this program, just to wear this name on our chest every day,” Samuelson said. “You know you’re part of something special. And they’ve created something amazing here. And for us, we just want to be part of that and keep it going as long as we can.”
Louisville (32-4) was looking to become only the second team to beat UConn twice in a season in the last decade, joining fellow ACC school Notre Dame, which did it in 2012 and 2013. The Huskies could face the Irish in the Final Four in Tampa if Notre Dame beats Stanford in the Chicago Regional final on Monday night.
Oregon 88, Mississippi State 84: Thanks to another stellar performance from Sabrina Ionescu and a lift from a home-state crowd in Portland, Oregon is heading to its first women’s Final Four.
Ionescu had 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the second-seeded Ducks beat No. 1 seed Mississippi State.
Satou Sabally had 22 points and seven rebounds for the Ducks (33-4), who head to Tampa to face the winner of Monday’s game between top overall seed Baylor and Iowa.
At the final buzzer, Ionescu jumped into teammate Ruthy Hebard’s arms, and coach Kelly Graves flashed an “O” with his hands to the crowd. The Ducks had been eliminated in the Elite Eight the past two seasons.
Teaira McCowan had 19 points and 15 rebounds in her final game for the Bulldogs (33-3), who had played in the NCAA title game for the past two seasons. Two of Mississippi State’s losses this season were to Oregon, and the first one was a true road game.