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NCAA Tournament: UConn Women’s Basketball Takes Down Duke to Advance to the Elite Eight

The Huskies reach the program’s 13th-consecutive Elite Eight and 24th overall.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Behind a strong performance from Gabby Williams, the UConn women’s basketball team beat the Duke Blue Devils, 72-59, in Albany. The Huskies improve to 24-2 in Sweet Sixteen play and are now just one win away from the Final Four.

Williams finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals. Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie had high praise for the senior after the game.

“I’m going to go with [Jay Bilas] and be on that club, the Gabby Williams fan club,” she said. “She’s the closest thing to Maya Moore to me without the outside shooting as much, but still with that body type and the way she’s consistent.”

UConn exploded out of the gates, scoring seven straight points in just over a minute and forcing Duke to take a timeout. The Huskies upped their lead to 10-2 and appeared poised to run away with the game early on.

UConn’s Geno Auriemma, Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson postgame

However, Duke attacked UConn’s interior defense and pulled the game within four points.

“At the beginning we were a little lazy with our press and gave up too many layups and open threes,” Williams said. “Once we slowed down, started forcing some tougher shots...we just kind of got into our rhythm. “

With the score locked at 16-12 Huskies, neither team found the basket for over two and a half minutes in the first quarter. Azura Stevens broke the drought with a layup and Kia Nurse capped the period with another layup nine seconds before the buzzer.

Not long into the second quarter, McCallie picked up a technical foul for arguing with the officials after being warned. At the time, her team was still within single digits. But UConn ripped off a 9-0 run to extend the lead to 16 points and take control of the game. The Huskies ended the half on an 8-0 run to take a 40-20 lead into the halftime break.

“You’ve got to be prepared for all 40 minutes,” McCallie said. “As you make runs, Connecticut is very good to responding to that.”

In the third quarter, Duke used an 11-2 run to get within shouting distance, at 13 points. But the Huskies came right back with a 7-0 run to push the lead back to 20, eliminating any hope of a comeback. While UConn did not play their best basketball in the final two quarters, they did just enough to keep Duke down.

Against her former team, Azura Stevens cleaned up with 12 boards while also chipping in eight points. Napheesa Collier lead all scorers with 16 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Samuelson added 15 points and Kia Nurse was the fourth player in double digits, scoring 10 points while also dishing out four assists.

Duke Blue Devils and UConn Huskies Sweet 16 Postgame Press Conference

Next, UConn will face the defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks on Monday. The top two seeds in the Albany Regional will tip off at 7 p.m. with a trip to the Final Four in Columbus, OH on the line.