UConn women’s basketball held off a strong comeback attempt by 10-seed Buffalo in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, winning 84-72. The Huskies will advance to their 26th-straight Sweet Sixteen, taking place in Albany, New York next weekend.
Despite holding a 24-point lead in the second half, UConn went ice cold offensively in the fourth quarter. For 7:44, the Huskies had just a single field goal as their lead fell from 17 to as little as eight points.
It seemed Buffalo’s chances were dead when its star Cierra Dillard went down with an ankle injury. However, the Bulls continued to fight and Dillard returned to the court soon after, playing through the pain as they fought to keep their season alive.
Napheesa Collier finally broke the drought with a layup with 2:16 remaining to bring UConn’s lead back to double-digits. The game stayed tight but UConn kept its buffer despite the pressure. A Samuelson free throw put the Huskies up 11 with 47 seconds left as the Huskies held on for the victory.
From the start of the game, it looked like UConn would cruise to the Sweet Sixteen without much resistance. At one point, Buffalo had more turnovers (4) than attempted shots (2) and the Huskies scored 15-straight points to open the game.
The Bulls woke up at the end of the quarter and closed the period on a 9-0 run to cut UConn’s lead to just 12 points. There still wasn’t much reason for concern on the part of the Huskies. They began the second quarter on a 11-2 spurt that once again gave them a comfortable lead.
But there were signs not all was well for UConn. They allowed 17 offensive rebounds in the first half, which turned into 12 second-chance points for Buffalo. The Huskies also turned the ball over an uncharacteristic eight times.
But scoreboard wise, UConn looked fine. They were in control in the second half, holding a 24-point lead with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
However, foul trouble also began to creep up on the Huskies. Crystal Dangerfield picked up her fourth foul with over 14 minutes left which forced her to the bench. Then, UConn was held scoreless for the final two and a half minutes of the period as Buffalo went on a 6-0 run.
Ultimately, the Huskies did just enough to hang on and avoid the upset.
Collier did it all for UConn, scoring 27 points to go with 12 rebounds and eight assists. Katie Lou Samuelson added 17 points, nine boards and four assists while Williams also added 17 points.
Next, the Huskies will have to hit the reset button to prepare for the Sweet Sixteen in Albany. They will play the winner of No. 3 Maryland and No. 6 UCLA on Friday at either 7:00 p.m. or 9:30 p.m.