No. 2 UConn left little doubt as their quest for a 14th straight Final Four continues through to the Elite Eight. The Huskies turned up the heat in the third quarter, turning a four-point lead into a 14-point lead to eliminate No. 3 seed Indiana, 75-58, on Saturday in the Bridgeport region semifinal.
UConn will play No. 1 seed NC State in Bridgeport, Connecticut and in front of a huge UConn crowd on Monday. It’s his 16th consecutive Elite Eight game. The Wolfpack escaped from No. 5 Notre Dame with a late robbery on Saturday.
It was the first meeting between the two programs and Indiana struggled to keep up the scoring pace. The Hoosiers had three starters with four fouls each as they tried to overcome the late deficit and couldn’t give themselves additional opportunities on the boards.
Indiana’s Aleksa Gulbe hit a 3-pointer to gain some traction heading into halftime trailing, 37-33. The Huskies scored 16 unanswered points before Indiana’s first points of the third quarter. They won the frame, 22-13, but Indiana pushed late amid a foul-filled streak. The referees mostly let them play in the first and started calling everything in the second.
“Funny things happen when we have a big lead, you know?” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said on the ESPN broadcast heading into the fourth quarter. “Suddenly there’s a foul on every possession. So we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and this fourth quarter is going to be interesting.”
Indiana made stops defensively and held UConn scoreless for four minutes, a constant problem for the Huskies, but couldn’t convert offensively to deepen the deficit. Ali Patberg scored a game-high 16 points while shooting 7-for-9. Grace Berger added 13 points and five rebounds. And Mackenzie Holmes had 12 points, six rebounds and two assists. They had no bench points and were -12 on the boards.
Bueckers’ health remains a question
Bueckers left the game late in the first quarter for a short period due to a knee problem. The reigning National Player of the Year is still recovering from knee surgery she underwent in December and was only cleared to return a month ago.
The second-year point guard shuffled defensively, dropped to his left knee and left the game to see the coaches. She had more tape put on her knee, ESPN’s Holly Rowe said on the broadcast, and she returned soon after.
Bueckers scored nine points in the crucial third quarter and finished with 15. She went 7-for-17 and made one of five 3-point attempts in another positive game to get back to herself on the floor. But this more experienced Huskies squad doesn’t need her to be a hero this time around like she did in her 2021 Final Four run.
Senior shooting guard Christyn Williams scored 15 points shooting 7-of-11 with six rebounds. Azzi Fudd had 13 points despite a poor 3-for-11 performance. He made three of the team’s five 3-pointers in a game-high 10 attempts.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 10 points and 14 rebounds and Aliyah Edwards, a force on the offensive boards, had nine points and 10 rebounds. Three players scored from the bench.
UConn shot 46.3%, but only 25% from 3-point range and even more so with a 57.1% clip at the free throw line.