Syracuse women beat Washington 80-59, reach NCAA title game

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INDIANAPOLIS — Syracuse just followed the normal plan Sunday night and the Orange are one win from a national championship.

With its strong 3-point shooting barrage challenging Washington’s defense and full-court pressure forcing miscue after miscue, the Huskies finally cracked.

Alexis Patterson scored 18 points, and Brittney Sykes added 17 to help the Orange roll past the surprising Huskies 80-59 and right into their first women’s national title game.

“When you get those type of steals and come out in the second half and you become hungrier and start to turn them over and start to get the ball and you want them more and you understand what’s at stake is you can go home, and that puts fear in you,” Sykes said. “You want to go out and you want to give your all for 40 minutes because you don’t want those to be the last 40 minutes.”

Not a chance now.

The next goal is to end UConn’s historic run on Tuesday night. The three-time defending champs rolled to their 74th consecutive win with a 29-point blowout over Pac-12 champion Oregon State, the largest margin ever in the national semifinals. One more would give UConn a record fourth straight title and another perfect season.

With Syracuse’s blowout, it marked the first time since 1995 – and only the third time in Final Four history – that each of the two games were decided by 20 or more points.

How did Syracuse (30-7) get here?

“They brought us out of our zone early by making (3-point) shots, ran us out of our zone, which is our bread-and-butter,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “They were hot down the stretch. Not doing anything they haven’t been doing for the last month.”

The outmanned Huskies (26-11) couldn’t keep up.

Talia Walton led Washington with 29 points and made her first eight 3-pointers to break the single-game record at a Final Four. The previous mark of six was set by Katie Steding in the 1990 title game and matched in 2013 by Antonita Slaughter.

Third-team All-American Kelsey Plum, the nation’s No. 3 scorer, had a rough night. She scored 17 points, was 5 of 18 from the field and wound up with six turnovers in 40 minutes.

“I felt like the thing that they did best was they really, really made it hard on her for 40 minutes,” Neighbors said. “I wasn’t much help to her tonight, because we kept putting it in her hands and I knew she was tired and I knew she had been stressed like she hadn’t been stressed all year. So a lot of the shooting was because I couldn’t give her a break.”

In their first meeting this season, Syracuse took a 21-point lead before Washington rallied to within one. The Orange held on for a 66-62 victory in November.

This time, Syracuse never let it get close.

When Washington cut the halftime deficit to 43-31, Peterson hit a 3 to start a 9-4 spurt that made it 52-35. When the Huskies got within 11, Syracuse used a 15-2 run to make it 67-43. And when Washington closed to 72-59 midway through the fourth quarter, Sykes and Brianna Butler made back-to-back 3s to seal it.

Butler finished with four 3s to set the NCAA’s single-season record with 128. Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell made 127 last season.

“I actually didn’t know I was that close to beating it,” Butler said. “I was just focused on advancing and getting a chance to play for a championship.”

And by sticking to the plan, they will get that chance Tuesday night.

“Our players did what we asked them to do,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. “They competed at a high level. They pushed the pace, pushed the tempo. And that’s the difference in the game. We just wanted to get up and down and play fast.”

RECORD NIGHT

The two teams came into the night averaging 16.2 3-pointers. They nearly matched that total in the first half and wound up combining for 23. Syracuse made 12 and broke UConn’s 15-year-old record most 3-point attempts in a Final Four game. The Orange had 33 attempts, three more than UConn had in a semifinal game against Notre Dame. Washington finished 11 of 25. Until Sunday, only two teams had ever made 11 in a Final Four game.

TIP-INS

Syracuse: Butler scored 12 points and Cornelia Fondren had 10. … The Orange outrebounded Washington 46-28 including 17-7 on the offensive glass. Syracuse also had scoring advantages of 20-9 in points off turnovers and 17-7 on second-chance points. … Former football star Floyd Little attended the game.

Washington: Plum fell eight points short of breaking Chiney Ogwumike’s Pac-12 single-season record (967). … Chantel Osahor scored only 3 points on 1-of-6 shooting but grabbed 14 rebounds. … The Huskies had 18 turnovers after being forced into 19 in the first meeting. … Neighbors and Hillsman, who are friends, spent about the final 15 seconds of the game shaking hands near midcourt.

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.

Kentucky to allow college athletes to earn off likeness

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Thursday allowing the state’s college athletes – including players on the nationally renowned Kentucky and Louisville men’s basketball teams – to make money through the use of their name, image or likeness.

The Democratic governor said he took the action as a matter of fairness for college athletes. It will spare Kentucky’s colleges from being at a competitive disadvantage with rivals in other states that will have laws enabling athletes to profit off their name, image or likeness, he said.

“This is important to our student-athletes, who for decades, others – whether it’s companies or institutions – have profited on,” Beshear told reporters. “These athletes deserve to be a part of that.”

Beshear said his executive order takes effect July 1, when similar legislation passed in several other states will become law. His office said he was the first governor to make the change by executive order.

The governor’s action won praise from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. UK plays in the Southeastern Conference and UofL competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Bringing the state of Kentucky into competitive balance with other states across the country and, more specifically, the Atlantic Coast Conference is critical,” Vince Tyra, U of L’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics, said in a release issued by the governor’s office.

UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said the governor’s action “provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around name, image and likeness.”

“We are appreciative of that support, as it is a bridge until such time as state and/or federal laws are enacted,” Barnhart said in the same release from Beshear’s office. “The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago.”

In Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, laws go into effect July 1 that make it impermissible for the NCAA and members schools to prevent athletes from being paid by third parties for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsements and personal appearances.

The NCAA had hoped for a national law from Congress that has not come, and its own rule-making has been bogged down for months. College sports leaders are instead moving toward the type of patchwork regulation they have been warning against for months.