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UConn reaches 14th straight Final Four, tops NC State in 20T

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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — Paige Bueckers scored 15 of her 27 points in two overtime periods, and UConn beat North Carolina State 91-87 to extend the Huskies’ record Women’s Final Four streak to 14 back to back on Monday night.

The Huskies, who had gone 0-for-5 in the NCAA Tournament in overtime in their history, will meet top seed Stanford on Friday night in the national semifinals in Minneapolis.

Bueckers, who grew 10 miles away from the Final Four site, scored all five points in the second overtime to lift the Huskies (29-5). The sophomore sensation, who missed two months this season with a knee injury, once again looked like the 2021 AP Player of the Year. She was named the Bridgeport Region Most Outstanding Player .

With NC State within 86-84 in the second overtime, Christyn Williams hit the second of two free throws and then a layup with 21 seconds left to give UConn an 89-85 lead.

Jakia Brown-Turner, who hit a 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game, then made a layup to bring the Wolfpack within two, but Williams converted an inside layup to seal the victory.

Brown-Turner finished with 20 points for NC State (32-4).

Both teams had chances to win in the last 30 seconds of regulation time. UConn’s Olivia Nelson-Ododa was fouled with 28 seconds remaining and missed both free throws. On the ensuing possession, Diamond Johnson dribbled the clock and drove before passing it back to Kai Crutchfield, who was way off on a deep 3-pointer from the wing.

NC State was trying to reach the national semifinals for the second time in school history. The Wolfpack made it this far in 1998, beating the Huskies in the Elite Eight that season to advance. None of the current list were alive then.

Crutchfield, Raina Perez and Kayla Jones all returned this year using their extra COVID-19 season that was granted by the NCAA to try and take the Wolfpack to new heights. They were successful, advancing further than the team had done in 24 years.

The Huskies dealt with injuries and COVID-19 issues throughout the season and had their most losses since 2012, including their first conference loss in nine years and their first loss to an unranked team since 2012.

Things have been looking up for UConn since the team began to bounce back, starting with the Bueckers.

HUSKY INJURED

UConn took a big hit when center Dorka Juhasz went down in the first half with a scary-looking injury just above her left wrist. He was fouled on a kickback attempt and landed awkwardly when he tried to lower his hands to break his fall.

Juhasz was on the floor crying and they helped her back to the locker room with her team up by seven points. The Huskies extended the lead to 10 before NC State cut it to 34-28 at the half.

She returned to the bench at the beginning of the fourth quarter in warm-up clothes and with her arm in a sling.

HOW DID THEY GET HERE

UConn: Beat Mercer in the first round, UCF in the second round and Indiana in the Sweet 16.

NC State: Beat Longwood in the first round, Kansas State in the second round and Notre Dame in the regional semifinals.

UNTIL WE SEE YOU AGAIN

This was the first meeting between the schools since the 2006-07 season. They are scheduled to play the next two seasons.

“I’ve agreed to a series with UConn starting next year,” NC State coach Wes Moore said. “Coming back here next year, then they will come to us the year after”

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More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25



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