UConn women’s basketball beats NC State in double OT thriller to reach Final Four

UConn women’s basketball beats NC State in double OT thriller to reach Final Four

UConn’s Olivia Nelson-Ododa, left, Paige Bueckers, center, and Dorka Juhasz cheer during the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Elite Eight matchup between No. 2 UConn and No. 1 NC State at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. Monday, March 29, 2022.

UConn women’s basketball beats NC State
UConn women’s basketball beats NC State

BRIDGEPORT — For the 14th straight time, UConn women’s basketball is going to the Final Four.

But it was far from easy.

It was an Elite Eight game for the books featuring a season-ending injury and the Huskies’ first overtime game of the season. One team trying to make history while the other trying extend its own.

The No. 2 seeded Huskies will fly to Minneapolis for their 22nd appearance in the national semifinals after defeating No. 1 NC State 91-87 in double overtime Monday in the Elite Eight. The win was UConn’s first overtime victory within its history of playing in the NCAA Tournament and the first double overtime game in the history of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

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UConn women’s basketball beats NC State

UConn (30-5) will face No. 1 seed and reigning national champion Stanford on Friday (time TBD) for the chance to play in Sunday’s national championship and compete for the program’s 12th national title.

But it wasn’t all celebration…

The packed crowd inside Total Mortgage Arena was silent minutes into the second quarter.

All you could hear was the painful cries of Dorka Juhasz.

The graduate transfer sat crumbled under the basket holding her left arm in visible and audible pain. UConn’s trainers were immediately ushered over. Evina Westbrook walked over to her teammate for support. Within a minutes Westbrook walked back in the team’s bench in tears. A teammate placed a towel over her head while she cried to the side.

Juhasz was escorted off the court and immediately ushered to the locker room with trainers propping up arm beside her and holding a towel over her left wrist. The Hungarian’s season was likely over four minutes into the second quarter of Monday’s Elite Eight. The crowd gave her a standing ovation knowing just the same.

UConn appeared to be shaken up after Juhasz left the court not even halfway through the second quarter. The Huskies fouled NC State in back-to-back possessions and struggled to look organize on offense. UConn had started the second half on an aggressive 6-0 run sparked by their reinforcements in Nika Muhl and Juhasz. Juhasz’s layup at 8:21 in the second was her first bucket since last Monday and likely her last for the year.

NC State took advantage of UConn’s hesitation and started the third on a 7-0 run. The Wolfpack had more aggression and were more physical than the first half. They forced UConn to three turnovers in the second half’s first seven minutes. The Huskies struggled to get shots to fall.

The Wolfpack got as close as one to UConn twice. Paige Bueckers scored six of UConn’s 10 points to keep NC State at bay. But with both Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa called for their third personal foul each to start the third, the Huskies were limited and it showed.

UConn started the fourth quarter with its seventh turnover of the game as the Wolfpack made a layup on the other end to take its first lead of the game since 2-0. Nelson-Ododa was called for her fourth as NC State took a four-point lead and UConn called a timeout with eight minutes remaining.

The Huskies briefly got back on top but couldn’t hold it as the Wolfpack continued to draw fouls from UConn’s defense. With about four minutes left, NC State was up two over UConn and was 13 of 14 from the free throw line.

The teams traded the lead until a jumper from Bueckers at 2:10 gave UConn the edge. A layup from Elissa Cunane tied the score once more at the one-minute mark. Nelson-Ododa missed a pair of free throws followed by the Wolfpack missing its attempt at a buzzer 3-pointer to send the game into overtime — UConn’s first extra time game of the season.

Bueckers paced UConn in overtime. A layup from Edwards put UConn up by three then an NC State layup got the Wolfpack back within one yet gave UConn the ball with 28 seconds left. The Wolfpack then fouled Azzi Fudd, who made both her free throws to put UConn back up by three.

But unlike its failed 3-pointer to end regulation, the Wolfpack made a corner long shot to send the game into double overtime – a first in NCAA Tournament history in the Elite Eight.

Bueckers again came to the rescue, scoring UConn’s first five points of the frame. The Huskies lost another big when Edwards fouled out with 32 seconds left. But it was Williams’ final layup with five seconds left that extended UConn’s Final Four streak one more season.

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