STORRS, Conn. — UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma said he thinks he’s seen it all this season, as his team struggled with injuries most of the campaign and dropped the most games prior to the NCAA Championship the program has seen since 2004-05.
But Monday’s battle against a former UCF opponent in the conference in front of one of the most raucous Gamble Pavilions in recent memory, with a place in the Sweet 16 on the line?
“This was a new experience for me,” Orima said.
Despite shooting 29.2% of the field, the Husky held a 52-47 victory where they were late eight years early, then went back up to 12 halfway through fourth and then let the cavalry retreat within three. There is less than a minute left.
In a season in which several historic UConn streaks have been cut (back-to-back matches without running into an unranked opponent, years after the conference game was dropped), one of the program’s most impressive rounds remains the same: the Huskies have now advanced to the Sweet 16 in which Record 28 consecutive NCAA tournaments. They will play Indiana, the first meeting in programming history, on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for a spot at the Elite Eight.
“Not only are the tough matches, but I think the adversities we faced on the field as well, helped us prepare [to battle Monday]The guard said a burly student Azzi Fdwho shot 4 3s and finished with a 16-point team high.
Meanwhile, the NFL (26-4) wrapped up a historic season in which they claimed their first AAC regular-season Major League title and championship and won their first NCAA game, over Florida in the first round.
The Husky left a large number of points on the board throughout the contest, and made only 2 out of 12 throw attempts.
But the UCF also let the game slip by a poor (10 vs. 20) free throw. This included a number of fouls from the charity streak with 2:21 remaining which could have cut the difference to three and another set with 22 seconds left down only three times (with the second foul shot canceled due to a lane violation).
UConn’s score of 52 was the lowest ever recorded in an NCAA tournament in the program’s history.
Huskys have been familiar with the UCF’s physical play style since their time at the American Athletic Conference from 2013 to 2020, when Auriemma teams prevailed 13-0 in the series. But tension was escalated on Monday as Gamble’s raucous crowd was filled with students who had recently returned from spring break and fans just as excited to watch what looked more like a boxing match than a basketball game.
The Knights climbed first to 17-9, before UConn grappled with some of its own ledge. In one game early in the first quarter, the reigning National Player of the Year Big Bakers And the Ty Sanders She kept arguing over the jump ball even after the umpires whistled, before the Bakers turned toward the crowd and raised their arms to amplify the crowd.
“We were expecting to be physical, but I don’t think they were expecting us to be physical,” said the UCF guard. Diamond battlesThe team finished with 12 points. “We went out and did what we do best. Solidity, that’s what we are. UCF is a strong and brave team, and we will always be that way. Right from the start, we knew how we had to play, and we’ve been that way for 40 minutes.”
Auriemma introduced him.
“There are times when you are just in a rock fight and you have to figure out a way to get past it,” he said. “And there are other times when you feel like you’re at a ballet and no one’s touching anyone.”
Monday’s performance was definitely not a ballet.
The Knights, who entered the game bragging about the nation’s highest scoring defense, didn’t overly flip UConn, but their aggressive pressure and defense slowed it down and disrupted its offensive flow. And when the Husky got a good look, which they did more and more as the match went on, they lost the shots they would normally make. They were also completely neutralized in the paint, scoring only 10 points.
For a team that tends to win by prowess, UConn had no choice but to outsmart the riders if it wanted to advance to Bridgeport. The Husky settled defensively and found a bit more groove in attack, slowly but surely crawling forward in double digits early in the fourth inning.
“We just fought,” said UConn Senior Kristen WilliamsWho finished with 12 points. “That was the only thing we could really do was just hang out on our own and hit back. And that’s exactly what happened: We kept punching, and eventually they backed out.”
The UCF had one more blast, though, using nine missed points to make it a one possession game with one minute to play, but between the missed free throws and a 4v4 UConn finish off the spoiled streak thanks to Williams Fodd, the Husky will live to play Another game.
“Strength makes all those free throws at the end,” Orima said. “Strength gets a big rebound in a big time. Durability is what makes Kristen so 3 [early in the fourth to put UConn up by 11] when she had to do it. And I think we showed that. I guess all the other stuff was just fluff.”
The road won’t get any easier for huskys from now on; Indiana is waiting, and then must go ahead, the winner of the ACC State NC Championship vs. Notre Dame with a trip to Minneapolis on hand.
Huskys will have to play close to the best version of themselves to survive this challenge, although for the team, being able to weather another bout of adversity offers a lesson nonetheless.
“There’s something to be said about you can win a match that maybe you’ll look back and say I’m not sure how we won that match, but we did,” Orima said.
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