Huskies feel right at home in reaching region final
CONNECTICUT 86, UCLA 71
bridgeport, conn. — One hundred ten and counting for the Connecticut women’s basketball team.
That’s how many games in a row the Huskies, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, have won after handling No. 4 seed UCLA, 86-71, on Saturday afternoon in the Bridgeport Region’s round of 16 at Webster Bank Arena.
The Huskies (35-0) carry the longest winning streak in college basketball history into Monday night’s region final against upstart Oregon, which as a No. 10 seed beat third-seeded Maryland, 7763, in the other semifinal. Connecticut advanced to its 12th consecutive region final and will be seeking a 10th straight trip to the Final Four.
In what essentially was a Connecticut home game before an announced sellout crowd of 8,830, fans rose from their seats also to applaud Huskies Coach Geno Auriemma as he walked off the court after setting the record for most wins (112) in NCAA tournament history. Late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt had held the previous record.
“Obviously we played a really, really good team,” Auriemma said. “They’re hard to play against, and today was a struggle for us. Even when we got up 20, I didn’t think it was like being up 20 against somebody else where you know it’s going to go from 20 to 30. I never had that feeling, and it was a grind for our guys, and we felt it a little bit in the fourth quarter.”
Still, Connecticut led by at least 12 in the second half in its 24th consecutive appearance in the round of 16. Its largest lead was 45-25 with 1:30 remaining until halftime.
Connecticut had four players score in double figures, including Napheesa Collier’s game-high 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting. The sophomore forward added a team-high 14 rebounds and five assists and received a standing ovation as she exited with five fouls with 55 seconds to play.
Gabby Williams contributed 17 points and nine rebounds, making 7 of 12 shots as part of the Huskies’ 56 percent shooting. Kia Nurse (nine points) and Saniya Chong (16 points) each made three-pointers to help Connecticut go 9 for 20 (45 percent) from beyond the arc for a 107th win by double digits during the streak.
The only schools to have gotten within 10 points of Connecticut in that span are Florida State, Maryland and Tulane, all this season.
The Huskies limited UCLA (25-9) to 38 percent shooting, including just 5 for 17 in the fourth quarter. So defensively sound was Connecticut that it was never threatened in the late stages despite going the final 6:15 without converting a field goal. It also didn’t have much cause for alarm despite facing a more than two-toone deficit in turnovers.
UCLA missed 10 of its last 12 field goal attempts and its final five overall. Jordin Canada led the Bruins with 20 points and 11 assists.
Among the few concerns for Connecticut entering Monday’s region final was how quickly it could recover from using just six players against the Bruins. Every starter played at least 31 minutes, with Katie Lou Samuelson playing the entire game. The only reserve Auriemma used was freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield, who played 17 minutes.
Depth has been somewhat of an issue for the Huskies this season, but Auriemma was able to use 10 players during each of the previous two games in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies won those games by an average of nearly 46 points.
“I think we were kind of just exhausted,” Williams said of elevated minutes for the Huskies’ starters against UCLA. “It was a long final three minutes. We were happy once we got back in the locker room, but we didn’t end the game as well as we would have liked to, and I think the [tired] look on our face was a result of kind of how the last three minutes dragged for us.”
Connecticut’s Katie Lou Samuelson played all 40 minutes against UCLA. The Huskies used six players in reaching the round of eight.