Women's College Basketball

Huskies Outlast Wolfpack In Double OT, Advance to 14th Final Four


N.C. State guard Jakia Brown-Turner shoots over the outstretched arms of UConn Husky Caroline Ducharme during Monday’s Elite Eight game in Westport, Connecticut. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine.

The NCAA Women’s Basketball Elite Eight playoff game between the UConn Huskies and N.C. State Wolfpack was one for the ages Monday night as UConn’s Paige Bueckers scored 15 of her 27 points in overtime to lead the Huskies to a 91-87 win in double overtime at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was the first ever double overtime contest in an Elite Eight or Final Four women’s tournament game and results in UConn heading to their 14th consecutive Final Four appearance.

The Wolfpack jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but it was quickly matched by UConn. Both teams were playing an uptempo style, which would hold throughout the entire contest. Even though the Huskies maintained a lead since overtaking N.C. State early in the game, they were never able to break open a wide lead during the first quarter, which ended with UConn holding a slim 16-14 lead.

Huskies forward Dorka Juhasz attempted a layup with 6:19 remaining in the half and was fouled on the shot. Juhasz landed hard on her left wrist and left the game with an injury. It was a rallying point for her teammates, who pushed through the adversity for a 30-20 lead two minutes later in what would become their largest lead of the night.

N.C. State went on a 6-2 run to cut the deficit to six with 2:05 remaining on the clock, but both teams connected on only one basket each to make it a 34-28 UConn lead at halftime.

N.C. State center Elissa Cunane pulls down a rebound during Monday night’s Elite Eight matchup against UConn at Bridgeport, Connecticut. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine.

Wolfpack center Elissa Cunane connected on a reverse layup and was fouled by Husky forward Aaliyah Edwards on the shot. Cunane hit the field goal to cut the deficit to one point with 8:29 left in the third period.

However, for UConn, Bueckers woke up from a first-half slumber. After only scoring four points on 2-6 shooting in the first half, Bueckers ended a five-minute UConn scoring drought with a jump shot with 8:17 remaining in the third, to build the lead back up to three points, 36-33. Two minutes later, another jumper put them up by five points.

N.C. State was a team that just wouldn’t go away. They continued to chip away at the deficit and pulled back to within one when Diamond Johnson nailed a three-pointer with :31 left in the quarter. UConn managed to hold on to a one-point 44-43 lead at the end of three frames.
Just 35 seconds into the fourth quarter, Jada Boyd scored on a layup to put N.C. State in the lead, 45-44, for the first time since the game’s opening minute.

However, it didn’t last long. UConn guard Azzi Fudd hit a jumper on their next possession to retake the lead.

Boyd scored on another layup to give the lead back to the Wolfpack, and then N.C. State took advantage of a UConn defensive miscue that left Diamond Johnson wide open for a three-pointer to give them a 50-46 lead with 8:16 left in regulation, completing a 12-2 run.

The Huskies retook the lead when guard Christyn Williams scored a three-pointer to end their streak of 10 consecutive missed three-point shots, and then connected on a fast-break layup with 6:19 left in the fourth, making it 53-52 in favor of UConn.

Both teams traded baskets and the lead for the remainder of the quarter. There were four lead changes and three ties during the last six minutes of regulation, which ended on a missed three-point opportunity by Wolfpack guard Kai Crutchfield as time expired to force overtime with the score even at 61-61.

The first overtime period began like the regulation period had expired, with teams trading buckets. Even though UConn’s Bueckers scored eight-points in a row for her team, there were still seven lead changes and three ties.

It did look like the Huskies were about to ice the game with a 75-72 lead and Crutchfield missing a three-pointer, but she was fouled with just 21.5 seconds left and went to the line to shoot three free shots, connecting on two of them. Bueckers was fouled with 6.2 seconds remaining and connected on both of her shots to make it 77-74 in favor of UConn.

For the Wolfpack, good fortune appeared to intervene once again as guard Jakia Brown-Turner hit a three-pointer with just 0.8 seconds left on the clock to tie the score 77-77 and force a second overtime period.

UConn’s Bueckers came out and hit a three-pointer to start the second overtime period, and they would never relinquish the lead for the remainder of the contest. This time, instead of having to rely on Bueckers to do all the scoring, Edwards and Williams stepped up for UConn, while the Wolfpack’s Cunane did everything she could to keep her team hanging on.

Even though UConn held the lead, a layup by Jakia Brown-Turner brought N.C. State to within two points, 89-87 with 10.1 seconds remaining.

UConn Husky guard Christyn Williams puts up a shot with 5.2 seconds left in the second overtime period to ice the game against the N.C. State Wolfpack during Monday’s Elite Eight matchup in Westport, Connecticut. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine.

After timeouts by each team, UConn’s Evina Westbrook ended up with the ball in the left corner after the inbounds pass. Westbrook found Williams wide open cutting to the basket and dished to her for an easy bucket with just 5.2 seconds left and a 91-87 lead to ice the game. Without having a timeout left, N.C. State was unable to advance the ball to their end of the court to try to make something happen with a deficit that was too large to overcome.

UConn’s Bueckers led all scorers with 27. Williams added 21 for the Huskies and Fudd chipped in for 19. N.C. State was led by 20 points from Brown-Turner and 18 from Cunane.

Cunane and Wolfpack forward Kayla Jones led all rebounders with nine each. UConn forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa led her team with seven boards.

“You know, if you watched the game, there’s really not much that you can say to add to it. It was pretty remarkable. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of since I’ve been at UConn, regular season, postseason, doesn’t really matter,” said UConn head coach Geno Auriemma. “It was just amazing the way the ten kids that are on the court are playing for their lives. Nobody wants to lose, and everybody is making big play after big play, and nobody backed down from the moment. It’s a shame one of us had to lose, right? It would be great if both of us could go. But if there’s two teams out there better than this one, holy moley. I don’t know what to say. Just really proud of these guys. They don’t make it easy, but they make it worth it.”

N.C. State head coach Wes Moore was equally impressed with the effort from both teams.

“First of all, just couldn’t be prouder of our players. Come in, tough environment, great team, and went toe to toe with them. That’s the way they’ve been for the whole season. As great of players as they are, they’re even better people, and it’s just been such an honor to be around them and to work with them,” he said. “Again, hats off to UConn. Bueckers, we were trying to do some different things, but obviously I didn’t do a good enough job getting us in a position to maybe slow her down. She had a great performance. They’ve got a really good team, and like I said, I wish we would have seen them at the Final Four instead of here, but that’s the way it works.”

For UConn, the loss of Dorka Juhasz early in the second quarter made them play a little bit harder.

“Coach got us together and basically just told us the biggest thing we could do for her was win the game and win it for her. I guess that was just our mentality for the rest of the game,” said Christyn Williams. “It was so good to see her after the game. She had a sling on, so that was really unfortunate, but we just embraced her and told her that we have her back no matter what. We were just really excited that we could get this win for her.”

The Wolfpack players knew they had a slow start but had the inner fortitude to never give up and continue battling on each successive possession.

“You know this team has absolutely no quit in us. I think you can see that even if we start off a game bad, not hitting shots or something, we’re not going to give up. I don’t think for a second on that court we gave up or stopped fighting. That’s just something we instill in each other. We know who we are and we know what people we are, and we aren’t going to give up for our team,” said Elissa Cunane.

Now it is time for UConn to advance back to the Final Four for their 14th consecutive time. The last time they faced a playoff loss was in the Elite Eight in 2007 when they lost to Louisiana State University. They battled back from adversity this year and now face the Stanford Cardinal at the Target Center in Minneapolis at 8:30 p.m. CT on Friday in the semifinal round of the 2022 NCAA Women’s Final Four.

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