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No. 3 UConn women’s basketball survives at Tennessee, 67-61

The Huskies needed a fourth-quarter surge to avoid an upset against the 25th-ranked Tennessee team.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Connecticut at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Despite having an off shooting night, No. 3 UConn women’s basketball avoided an upset bid against the No. 25 Tennessee Volunteers, winning 67-61 on the road.

UConn trailed at the end of the first three quarters but outscored Tennessee 22-12 in the final ten minutes to earn the win and improve to 9-0 on the season. UConn shot 25-61 from the floor (41%) and just 7-25 (28%) from three. The Huskies also had a miserable night at the foul line, hitting just 10-21.

After a tightly-contested three-plus quarters, the Huskies held a nine point lead with 4:46 left and looked poised to pull away before Paige Bueckers twisted her ankle. After getting her ankle taped underneath the bleachers, the freshman returned with 1:16 left. Tennessee cut UConn’s lead to two with 55 seconds left.

On the ensuing possession with the shot clock winding down, Evina Westbrook found an open Bueckers, who buried a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put UConn ahead by five. The Vols didn’t score again as the Huskies came away with a six-point victory on the road.

Christyn Williams led UConn with 20 points while Westbrook added 15 points along with five rebounds and four assists in her return to Knoxville. Bueckers struggled to find her shot most of the night, going just 3-14 from the floor. However, she hit the shot that mattered and finished with nine points, eight rebounds, and seven assists.

Aubrey Griffin got her second straight start and made an impact with 10 points and four rebounds, but only played 10 minutes due to foul trouble. Olivia Nelson-Ododa had two of her three blocks in the fourth quarter as she finished with seven points and 11 rebounds.

UConn shot the ball early and often in the first quarter with its first four shots and 10 of its first 15 coming from beyond the arc. However, the Huskies struggled to sink those attempts, making just two treys in the opening 10 minutes.

While UConn’s offense struggled to get into gear, it also struggled to keep Tennessee off the offensive glass. In the first quarter alone, the Vols grabbed seven offensive boards which resulted in seven second-chance points.

Once the second quarter began, UConn adjusted its offensive approach, taking just two 3-pointers and making more of an effort to get the ball inside. That sparked an 8-0 run from the Huskies which put them ahead by five, their largest lead of the game to that point.

But Tennessee snapped the run with a three — one of five UT hit in the first half — and UConn’s offense went cold. The Huskies scored just six points over the next four and a half minutes as the Vols to reclaimed the lead.

The two teams went into the locker room at halftime with Tennessee up 35-34 — the first time UConn had trailed at the half this season.

Griffin scored four of the Huskies’ first six points of the third quarter but picked up her third and fourth in quick succession, which sent her to the bench. With UConn in desperate need of a spark, Williams answered the call, scoring UConn’s final eight points of the quarter. But the Huskies still went into the final 10 minutes trailing by four.

UConn’s defense stepped up in the fourth, holding Tennessee to just one basket in the first five minutes. The Huskies threes also started to fall with four of their seven makes coming in the final quarter — two of which came from Westbrook, playing against her former team. A 9-0 run gave UConn the lead for good and while the Vols made a late push, the Huskies did just enough to hold on for the win.

Tennessee allowed 3,553 fans in attendance — the largest crowd in Division I women’s basketball this season.

Next up, UConn will have a day off before returning to Big East play against Georgetown on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 2:00 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion with SNY on the broadcast.