UConn overcomes late-game mistakes to advance to NCAA championship game
The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team is heading to the national championship game for the 12th time in program history.
While the Huskies were ahead of Stanford for most of Friday night’s Final Four matchup, the game tightened in the closing moments.
UConn led by six late in the game. Then things got interesting. The Huskies turned the ball over three times in the final minute and 15 seconds. But sharp shooting at the free throw line carried the Huskies to a 63-58 win over defending national champion Stanford University.
“I knew it was going to be a very competitive, sort-of sluggish game,” UConn sophomore guard Paige Bueckers said after the game. “Both teams are trying to win a national championship. It’s a Final Four game, so everybody’s going to lay it all out on the line. And that’s just basketball.”
The Huskies were 15 of 17 from the line late and that helped the Huskies overcome eight turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Bueckers had a team-high 14 points for UConn in a game played at the Target Center in Minneapolis—nine miles away from where she played high school ball at Hopkins High in Minnetonka, Minn.
“It’s awesome that it’s at my hometown, but that’s not really our focus,” Bueckers said after the game. “Whatever we have to do to do it, I think we’re going to keep doing it.”
Minnesota is where Bueckers became head coach Geno Auriemma’s top recruit, Minnesota is where Auriemma first led a team to a national championship (1995), and Minnesota is where Auriemma can become a 12-time national champion coach.
“We make it so hard on ourselves—we make it twice as hard as it already is—and hopefully [Sunday], we can just worry about beating South Carolina and not beating ourselves as much,” Auriemma said to reporters Friday night.
The Huskies will meet the University of South Carolina, the No. 1-ranked team in women’s college basketball all season, in the championship game Sunday night. UConn played the Gamecocks in November, but lost by 16.
“They’re going to be impossible to beat just as it is,” Auriemma said.
Still, Auriemma-coached Husky teams are 11-0 in NCAA Division I national title games.