Washington women beat Stanford 85-76 to reach Final Four

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Chantel Osahor and Kelsey Plum always believed they could help make Washington a championship-caliber program.

They signed with the Huskies as out-of-state recruits even though Washington had never reached the Final Four and hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2006. Their faith was rewarded Sunday when the junior tandem led the seventh-seeded Huskies to an 85-76 victory over No. 4 seed Stanford in the NCAA Lexington Regional women’s basketball final.

“I don’t think it’s really hit us,” said Osahor, wearing a piece of the Rupp Arena net tied to her Final Four hat. “I mean, we’re in the Final Four. That’s a huge accomplishment. I think we’ve got to look back and appreciate it and soak it in because it’s an opportunity a lot of people don’t get.”

Osahor, selected the regional’s most valuable player, matched a career high with 24 points and had 18 rebounds. Plum, who began the day as the third-leading scorer in Division I, had 26 points and eight assists.

Their efforts made Washington the first team seeded seventh or lower to reach a Final Four since Minnesota got there in 2004. Washington (26-10) will face Syracuse (29-7) in a semifinal April 3 in Indianapolis.

“We’re not done yet,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. ‘”What’s Next?’ has been our motto. It’s going to continue to be all the way through Indy.”

This marked the first regional final between two Pac-12 schools since Stanford beat Southern California 82-62 on its way to winning the national championship in 1992, when the conference was still known as the Pac-10.

Washington scored the game’s first 12 points, had a 22-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and stayed ahead the rest of the way.

Stanford (27-8) pulled to 78-73 on Lili Thompson’s 3-pointer with 1:07 left. An offensive foul on Plum allowed Stanford to get the ball back, but Thompson missed a 3-pointer with a minute remaining.

Washington went 7 of 8 on free throws in the final minute.

“We dug ourselves too big a hole in the first quarter,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “We just for some reason did not come out with the intensity and aggressiveness that we needed to. But I’m proud of our team. We had a great season.”

Thompson scored 19 points for Stanford (27-8), which was seeking its 13th Final Four appearance overall and seventh in the last nine seasons. Erica McCall added 17 points – all in the second half – and 15 rebounds.

This was the third meeting of the season between these two conference foes. Stanford won 69-53 at home on Jan. 29. Washington beat the Cardinal 73-65 on March 4 in the Pac-12 Tournament at Seattle.

Osahor, who had shot a combined 3 of 13 and had averaged just 4.5 points in those two previous games, was a model of efficiency Sunday.

Osahor’s physical presence early in the game also helped Washington hold McCall scoreless in the first half.

“Osahor was really the difference,” VanDerveer said.

Stanford cut Washington’s lead to 67-63 with 7:19 left after Karlie Samuelson, Thompson, Marta Sniezek and McCall hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.

The Cardinal had the ball with a chance to cut further into the lead when Plum made a steal and drove to the basket. Although Plum missed her layup, Talia Walton delivered a putback that made it 69-63 with 6:23 remaining.

Stanford made one more charge in the closing minutes, but Plum wouldn’t allow Washington to fold. She scored 19 points in the second half to help Washington earn that Final Four bid she always believed was a realistic goal.

“I definitely thought it was possible,” Plum said. “I think with the right pieces and the right circumstance, anything is possible. We say that today, but credit our team for really believing it. I don’t think anyone else outside our locker room believed that this could happen. And that’s OK, because inside the locker room, that’s what counts.”

Peacock Classic 2022: How to watch Gonzaga vs. Baylor, live stream info and game preview

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Two of men’s college basketball’s elite programs are set to face off when the No. 6 Baylor Bears and No. 14 Gonzaga Bulldogs play in the inaugural “Peacock Classic” Friday night. The game marks a rematch of the highly-anticipated 2021 NCAA National Championship Game, and the Zags will certainly look to get some revenge after Baylor ended their bid at an undefeated season.

The two programs boast two of the best coaches in the country, with Scott Drew of Baylor and Mark Few of Gonzaga working the sidelines. The “Peacock Classic” also marks a crucial point in the development of name, image and likeness deals at the collegiate level. Read on to learn everything you need to know ahead of the event.


How to watch the 2022 “Peacock Classic”

Only those with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan can stream the event. Sign up here or, if you have a free account, upgrade to Premium by going to your account settings.


A new world of NIL opportunities

For the first time, college athletes will be able to earn money by promoting a game in which they are playing.

Eligible players for both Baylor and Gonzaga can opt-in through NBC Sports Athlete Direct – a NIL community connecting student-athletes, advertisers and fans – and promote the game’s sponsors on their personal social media channels.

All participating players will be paid the same rate for their involvement.


Rematch of 2021 NCAA National Championship Game and series history

Baylor’s 86-70 victory over Gonzaga in the 2021 championship game marked the Bears’ first-ever NCAA men’s basketball title. The game carried added stakes since the Bulldogs entered it with a 31-0 record – the first team to make the championship game without a loss since Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores in 1979.

That matchup was a rightful bout between the two behemoths of that season – it was the first championship game that featured the tournament’s top two overall seeds since North Carolina beat Illinois in 2005. Baylor jumped all over Gonzaga in the early going, playing an aggressive style that prevented the Bulldogs from getting into their fluid offense and opened up its own attack for 3-pointers. Gonzaga was a -4.5-point favorite but never led in the game.

Gonzaga leads the all-time series between the teams 5-1, having won all their matchups with Baylor before the championship game. The previous meeting before 2021 saw Gonzaga eliminate Baylor from the 2019 NCAA tournament in the second round by a score of 83-71.


How Baylor and Gonzaga match up with each other

Both teams have been tested multiple times early in their seasons. Gonzaga (5-2) has defeated two teams currently ranked – No. 20 Michigan State and No. 19 Kentucky – but lost to No. 2 Texas and No. 5 Purdue. The Zags last played on Sunday, when they outlasted Xavier 88-84 to secure third place in the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Baylor (5-2) has had it slightly easier but has still had to deal with talented teams; they lost to No. 3 Virginia and defeated No. 21 UCLA in back-to-back games earlier this month. They’re coming off a surprising 96-70 loss to Marquette in Wisconsin Tuesday night as part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

Gonzaga will face a tough task in trying to slow down Baylor’s offense, whose 88.1 points per game ranks ninth in the country.

The Bears are paced by a duo of strong guards. LJ Cryer leads the team at 17.9 points per game, and Adam Flagler is not far behind at 16.9 points per contest while averaging 6.9 assists.

Baylor also boasts the services of freshman Keyonte George, another talented guard who could be a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Naismith Player of the Year Award candidate Drew Timme leads the way for the Zags, averaging 20.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. He’s flanked by Julian Strawther, who’s putting up 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per night.

Timme and Strawther are two of the six Gonzaga players left over from the 2021 finalist team, so vengeance will be top of mind. Baylor also has six holdovers from that championship matchup, including Cryer and Flagler.

With both teams ranked and looking to prove themselves early in the season, Friday will be a statement game – in more ways than one.

NIL and NCAA: What to know about the new policy and how NBC Sports can help

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As of July 1, 2021, a new NCAA policy has been in effect allowing student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image, and likeness (often referred to as NIL). As long as the activities are “consistent with the law of the state where the school is located,” athletes now have the opportunity to accept endorsements from brands, monetize their social media presences, and work with professional firms to coordinate deals.

Click here for additional information and guidelines regarding NCAA NIL policies and keep reading to find answers to questions such as how NIL works as well as how NBC Sports can help.

What is NIL and NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct is coming to a school near you. The program enables college student-athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through a unique marketplace that connects athletes with advertisers. NBC Sports Athlete Direct will work to provide equal opportunities to all student-athletes, regardless of which team you play on or any statistical performance.

How will the NIL Marketplace work?

Advertisers will use NBC Sports Athlete Direct to make NIL offers available to college student-athletes. College student-athletes will then have the option to participate in the NIL offer. Those who decide to participate and complete the advertiser’s campaign requirements will be compensated based on a predetermined rate.

How much money can athletes make participating in NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Compensation will vary by advertiser campaign.

When will NBC Sports Athlete Direct launch and how can I sign up?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct will officially launch in the Fall of 2022 but prior to that, we will be launching a pilot program soon, exclusively for Temple and Vanderbilt student-athletes.

In the meantime, click here to fill out a student-athlete interest form and once it is available at your school, we will notify you and provide you with additional information on how to sign up.

If I participate in NIL offers from NBC Sports Athlete Direct, do I still have the freedom to do other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Yes, this program is non-exclusive so our student-athletes will have the freedom to participate in other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct.

What are the rules or restrictions for participating in this program?

Unfortunately, international students and students under the age of 18 are not eligible to participate in the pilot program at this time.