UConn survives 2OT thriller to make Final Four

  • Covers women’s college basketball and the WNBA
  • Previously covered UConn and the WNBA Connecticut Sun for the Hartford Courant
  • Stanford graduate and Baltimore native with further experience at the Dallas Morning News, Seattle Times and Cincinnati Enquirer

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — UConn women’s basketball saw its streak of consecutive Final Four appearances extended to 14 Monday night, as the No. 2 seed Huskies defeated No. 1 seed NC State 91-87 in a double-overtime thriller in the Bridgeport regional final.

They’ll face No. 1 seed Stanford on Friday.

The Wolfpack, meanwhile, fell short of appearing in the program’s first Final Four since 1998.

Sophomore Paige Bueckers, who missed 19 games earlier this season due to a knee injury, looked like her reigning national player of the year self with 27 points on 10-15 shooting from the field, while freshman Azzi Fudd added 19 and senior Christyn Williams finished with 21.

“Two days ago I said, ‘Win or go home’, but we won and I’m still going home,” said Bueckers, who grew up 10 miles outside Minneapolis, the site of the Final Four. “This is crazy. I’m just so excited no matter the location, no matter where it is.”

NC State was led by junior Jakia Brown-Turner (20), senior Elissa Cunane (14) and junior Jada Boyd (114).

The Huskies led for the majority of regulation and by as many as 10 in the second quarter before the Wolfpack surged in the third and fourth quarters to retake the lead for the first time since the first basket of the game.

To conclude a back-and-forth final frame, UConn senior Olivia Nelson-Ododa missed what would have been the go-ahead free-throws with just under 30 seconds to play with the score tied. NC State guard Kai Crutchfield’s potential game-winning 3 then fell short at the buzzer.

The Huskies led by three with less than 10 seconds to go in the first overtime when Brown-Turner’s corner 3 extended the game another five minutes.

UConn then outscored NC State 14-10 in the final frame, with Christyn Williams’ layup with less than 10 seconds remaining sealing the win. The game featured 18 ties and 26 lead changes by the time the final buzzer sounded.

UConn lost some momentum earlier after forward Dorka Juhász went down with an apparent wrist injury early in the second quarter.

“This team has been through so much and it’s only made us stronger,” Bueckers said. “And if we see one of our sisters go down, we’re going to do it for her. We all love each other, we’re all so close. It just signifies what we’ve been through all year. Whole bunch of adversity, highs and lows, ups and downs. We stayed composed and we stayed together.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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