How did Paige Bueckers play and send UConn to the Final Four: BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Paige Bueckers scored 15 of her 27 points in the two overtimes as UConn defeated North Carolina State 91-87 on Monday night, extending the Huskies’ record women’s Final Four streak to 14 straight.
The Huskies, who had gone 0-for-5 in overtime in the NCAA Tournament, will face top seed Stanford in the national semifinals on Friday night in Minneapolis.
Bueckers, who grew up 10 miles from the Final Four site, scored the first five points of the second overtime period to lift the Huskies to victory (29-5).
“I said two days ago, ‘Win or go home,’ but we won and I’m still going home,” Bueckers explained. “This is insane. “I’m just so excited no matter where it is or where it isn’t.”
The sensational sophomore, who was sidelined for two months this season due to a knee injury, looked like the player who was named AP Player of the Year in 2021. She was named the Bridgeport Region’s Most Outstanding Player.
“Thank God Paige returned because she just provides everybody so much confidence, and then everybody just kind of played and took turns making plays,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “It was just an incredible basketball game and a fantastic showcase for our sport.”
Christyn Williams hit the second of two free throws and then a layup with 21 seconds left in the second overtime to give UConn an 89-85 lead.
Jakia Brown-Turner, who tied the game with a 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left in the first overtime, then made a layup to pull the Wolfpack within two, but Williams sealed the win with a layup off the inbounds.
Dorka Juhasz, UConn’s senior center, had suffered a forearm injury earlier in the match.
“This team has been through so much, and it has only strengthened us,” Bueckers said. “And if we see one of our sisters fall, we’ll do it for her.” We all love each other and are very close. It simply represents what we’ve been through this year. There has been a lot of adversity, highs, and lows, ups, and downs. We kept our cool and stayed together.”
How did Paige Bueckers play and send UConn to the Final Four: N.C. State (32-4) was led by Brown-20 Turner’s points, and Elissa Cunane added 18. UConn’s Williams scored 21 points, and freshman Azzi Fudd added 19.
In the final 30 seconds of regulation, both teams had chances to win. Olivia Nelson-Ododa of UConn was fouled with 28 seconds remaining and missed both free throws. Diamond Johnson squirted down the clock and drove before actually passing it back out to Kai Crutchfield, who was way off on a deep 3-pointer from the wing.
For the second time in school history, North Carolina State was attempting to reach the national semifinals.
The Wolfpack advanced to the Elite Eight in 1998, defeating the Huskies in the process. None of the current roster members were.
“This journey has been incredible, and this team has done and accomplished so much,” Cunane, a senior, said. “Although it’s painful right now, I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished this season.” I couldn’t be happier for the team.”
Crutchfield, Raina Perez, and Kayla Jones all returned this year, taking advantage of the NCAA’s extra COVID-19 season to help the Wolfpack reach new heights. They were successful, advancing further than the team had in the previous 24 years.
The Huskies were plagued by injuries and COVID-19 issues throughout the season, and they suffered their most losses since 2012, which include their first conference defeat in 9 years and their 1st loss to an unranked team since 2012.
UConn’s fortunes have improved since the team began to recover from injuries, beginning with Bueckers.
This was the first double-overtime game in a women’s NCAA Tournament regional final or later.
Husky is hurt
Juhasz went down in the first half with a scary-looking injury just above her left wrist, dealing a major blow to UConn. She was fouled on a putback attempt and fell awkwardly when she tried to brace her fall by putting her hands down.
Juhasz was in tears on the court and had to be helped back to the room with her team-leadingleading by seven points. The Huskies increased their lead to ten points before N.C. The state cut it to 34-28 at the half.
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