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Syracuse women earn first NCAA Tournament championship game bid

Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman celebrates a three-pointer in

Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman celebrates a three-pointer in the third quarter against the Washington Huskies during the semifinals of the 2016 NCAA Women's Final Four at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 3, 2016 in Indianapolis. Credit: Getty Images / Andy Lyons

INDIANAPOLIS — The Syracuse women aren’t done just yet.

The Orange beat Washington, 80-59, on Sunday night in an NCAA Tournament national semifinal at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Syracuse (30-7) will face top-ranked Connecticut (37-0) in tomorrow’s 8:30 p.m. championship game. UConn beat Oregon State, 80-51, in Sunday night’s early semifinal.

The late game featured unlikely participants in the 14th-ranked Orange, a No. 4 seed, and unranked Washington, a No. 7 seed. Each was making its first Final Four appearance.

The win was the 16th in the last 17 games for the Orange. Syracuse forced Washington (26-11) into 18 turnovers, scoring 20 off the miscues.

“We ran into the hottest team in the tournament,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “Incredibly hard to defend and incredibly hard to function against offensively. They just put a lot of stress on us tonight.”

Washington never led. Syracuse built a 24-point lead in the third quarter and closed with an 8-0 run. “Our players just did what we asked them to do,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. “Our kids were just amazing tonight. They competed at a high level. They pushed the pace, pushed the tempo. That was the difference in the game.”

Alexis Peterson led the Orange with 18 points. Brittney Sykes added 17, Brianna Butler scored 12 and Cornelia Fondren had 10. The Orange bench outscored Washington 23-3.

Kelsey Plum, Washington’s leading scorer at 26.2 points per game, was held to nine points through three quarters. She finished with 17 points but shot 5-for-18 from the field.

“Their pressure is very good,” Plum said. “They do a very good job of trapping the ball screen and rotating on the pass. I didn’t do a very good job of handling their pressure.”

Talia Walton was nearly unstoppable for Washington, finishing with 29 points and shooting 10-for-15 from the field.

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