UConn beats Baylor 77-58 for 29th straight trip to Sweet 16
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Azzi Fudd is still rounding back into form after missing 22 games with injuries this season.
She's only been back for five games and hadn't looked like the player that was dominating the game before suffering two knee injuries.
But after going 2 of 8 from the floor in the first half Monday night, the sophomore guard scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in a decisive third quarter, leading second-seeded UConn to a 77-58 win over No. 7 seed Baylor on Monday night. That put the Huskies in a 29th straight Sweet 16.
Fudd said she just stayed confident and her shots began to fall.
“I definitely wouldn’t say (I took) the team on my back, I think everyone played an incredible role tonight,” Fudd said. “But I think (I just kept) that mindset of being aggressive and having my teammates and coaches continue to remind me, ’Don’t stop shooting, keep shooting, keep looking for your shots.”
Aaliyah Edwards added 19 points, Aubrey Griffin pulled down 12 rebounds and Nika Muhl had 10 assists for the Huskies (31-5). Dorka Juhasz chipped in with 11 points and Caroline Ducharme added 10 points.
Ja'mee Asberry scored 15 points and Jaden Owens had 14 for Baylor, which finishes its season 20-13. Bella Fontleroy scored 12 points for the Bears, who made 12 3-pointers after hitting 14 in their first-round win over Alabama.
But the Huskies dominated inside, outscoring the Bears 36-12 in the paint and outrebounding Baylor 42-31.
“I think we settled for too many jump shots,” Baylor coach Nicki Collen said. “We don't want to be 50% of our shots from three. But when they have that size and they're backing up, there's a time and place. Sometimes that's the best shot you're going to get against them.”
UConn will play Ohio State in the regional semifinals in Seattle. The Buckeyes held on to beat North Carolina by two points earlier on Monday.
The Huskies led by five points at halftime after a shot from just over the half-court line by Muhl.
But Edwards, who had 12 first-half points, picked up her fourth foul less than three minutes into the second half.
A steal and a layup from Asberry cut the UConn lead to 44-43 and a 3-pointer by Owens tied the game at 46.
Fudd then took over. She hit seven of her 12 shots in the third, helping UConn go on a decisive 16-2 run that put the game away.
“In that third quarter, we made a concerted effort to make sure (Azzi) touched it in certain spots on the floor and then she did the rest,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “And Nika's great at finding her no matter where she is. And she doesn't hesitate.”
The Huskies led 62-50 after three quarters and outscored Baylor 15-8 in the fourth.
The game was close early with Baylor holding a 24-18 lead after one quarter. The Huskies clamped down on the perimeter defense and opened the second quarter on a 17-2 run to take a 35-26 advantage.
Edwards hit six of her first seven shots, but picked up her third foul late in the second quarter. Baylor fought back and trailed 37-35 after a 3-pointer from Jaden Owens.
But just before the half was about to end, Muhl took two steps over half court and heaved a shot that found the bottom of the net.
THE OTHER PLAYER OF THE GAME
Griffin scored just four points and when she wasn’t playing, she was on a stationary bike, wrapped in a special heating brace to help her deal with back spasms. On the court, six of her 12 rebounds were on the offensive end and she added three assists, a block and a steal in 19 minutes.
“If I could say who was MVP of the game today, that was definitely Aubrey,” Muhl said.
Baylor: The Bears also lost in the second round last year, falling to South Dakota at home, but Collen said she believes her program is on track to be among the best in the nation next season.
“I think we have a chance to be really special,” she said. “Obviously the portal's hopping and you never know who's coming and who is going and we won't look exactly the same a year from now, but I think we'll be able to compete with anyone and that's the plan.”
UConn: The Huskies haven't lost a first or second round NCAA tournament game since 1993, going 44-0 in Gampel Pavilion since then and 16-0 in other arenas. The Huskies are looking for a 15th straight trip to the Final Four and a 12th national title.
UConn last lost in the Sweet 16 in 2005, falling to Stanford in Kansas City. They will be looking for a 23rd consecutive trip to a regional final.