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UConn WBB Weekly: Bueckers’ three at Tennessee is one of the program’s top plays all-time

Paige Bueckers’ 3-pointer was an instant classic, in part because the Huskies are usually blowing out opponents.

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

Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.

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Quick headlines

  • Olivia Nelson-Ododa was one of 15 players named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Watchlist.
  • Paige Bueckers (11.0 points, 7.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals) won her fifth Big East Freshman of the Week Award while Christyn Williams (18.0 points, 3.7 assists, 2.7 rebounds) made the league’s honor roll.

UConn’s most crucial plays in recent program history

UConn women’s basketball rarely loses, which means it rarely plays games that go down to the wire. Though the Huskies were recently on the wrong side of a few rough last-second losses in the Final Four, they haven’t had many game-changing moments in recent history.

Paige Bueckers changed that against Tennessee. After UConn’s nine-point lead dwindled down to just two with less than 30 seconds to play, Evina Westbrook found Bueckers with the shot clock winding down. Unfazed, the freshman drained a three that took the air out of the Vols’ comeback and helped the Huskies secure a 67-61 win.

The play is even more impressive considering Bueckers had only made 2-13 shots from the floor to that point in the game and sprained her ankle just minutes earlier.

The next day, I posed this question on Twitter: Bueckers shot was the singular biggest play for UConn since _________. I decided to compile some of the best answers along with other plays I remembered to see how they stack up to Bueckers’ shot.

Most of these plays came with a handful of minutes left, not on the final possession or two. While they might’ve shifted the momentum or helped spark a run for the Huskies, they didn’t have the same immediate, game-defining impact that Bueckers’ shot did. Or if it did, it came in a loss.

These are still some of the most impactful, end-of-game plays in UConn’s recent history:

Katie Lou Samuelson’s 3-pointer vs. Louisville (2019 Elite Eight)

UConn’s Elite Eight battle against Louisville in 2019 was more than just a game to determine who advanced to the Final Four. The Huskies not only hoped to avenge their loss to the Cardinals from earlier that season, they also wanted to prove the NCAA selection committee had made a mistake by giving Louisville the top seed in the region.

With three minutes to play, UConn held a six-point lead. Napheesa Collier took the ball near the top of the key and handed it off to Samuelson, who fired a three, took a hand to the face, drew a whistle, and drained the shot all in the span of a second. The pro-UConn crowd in Albany erupted as Samuelson let out a scream.

However, she missed the ensuing free throw and soon after, Louisville made a furious comeback with 10 points in less than a minute. UConn did just enough to hold on and Samuelson eventually sealed the game with a pair of free throws in the final minute to send the Huskies to their 12th-straight Final Four.

Kia Nurse’s steal vs. Notre Dame (2018 Final Four)

Had UConn gone on to win the national championship in 2018, this play could’ve gone down as the greatest in program history.

Up two with 15.0 seconds left, Notre Dame just needed to inbound the ball, which would’ve forced the Huskies to foul and send the Fighting Irish to the line with a chance to seal the game.

With Samuelson guarding the inbounds, Jessica Shepard lofted an arcing pass to Marina Mabrey near mid-court. Kia Nurse stepped in front of the ball and took it all the way for a layup to tie the game with 11.5 seconds left.

It was an unfathomable turnaround for UConn — especially considering it trailed by five just five seconds earlier — and a play that would’ve lived on forever had the Huskies pulled out the win. However, what happened at the end of overtime will always overshadow what happened at the end of regulation.

Crystal Dangerfield jumper vs. Baylor (2016)

After a relatively modest five-point performance in her first collegiate game, Crystal Dangerfield introduced herself to the women’s basketball world against No. 2 Baylor. The freshman led UConn with 19 points and hit clutch shots throughout.

However, none were bigger than her final basket of the night as UConn held an eight-point lead with a little more than a minute left.

The Bears were playing tight man-to-man defense, which allowed Dangerfield to shake her mark with a sharp cut. She caught the ball just outside the paint and leaped for an off-balanced jumper which bounced high off the glass and into the basket. Baylor didn’t threaten a comeback after that and UConn cruised to an 11-point win.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ three vs. Notre Dame (2015 national championship)

UConn never trailed in the second half of the 2015 national title game, though that might not have been the case if not for a crucial 3-pointer from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

Notre Dame had fought back to within six, putting one basket away from a one-possession game. Jewell Loyd had a chance to cut the deficit to four but couldn’t score over Breanna Stewart, sending UConn the other way. Moriah Jefferson found Mosqueda-Lewis unguarded on a three-point line in transition and the senior buried what would be the final triple of her college career to put the Huskies up nine.

‘’I thought the 3 that Lewis hit was critical,’’ Muffet McGraw said postgame.

Notre Dame only scored once more over the final 4:58 as UConn claimed its 10th national championship.

Saniya Chong’s 3-pointer vs. Maryland (2015-16)

UConn didn’t play in many close games during Breanna Stewart’s senior year. However, Maryland gave the Huskies a run for their money in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden earlier in the year.

Down the stretch, UConn held a narrow four-point lead and just couldn’t put the Terrapins away. But in the final minute, Kia Nurse drove towards the hoop and dished out to an open Saniya Chong in the corner, who buried a 3-pointer to seal the deal for the Huskies.

Bria Hartley vs. Baylor (2010-11)

It’s hard to pick out a single play from Hartley’s performance as a freshman against Baylor — well, at least one of the plays from the final four minutes of the game. Because before that...

“Bria was contributing absolutely nothing,” Auriemma said postgame.

But suddenly, Hartley came alive. First, she hit a 3-pointer to tie the game with just under four minutes to play. Then, she scored a second-chance basket over Brittney Griner over a minute later to re-tie the ballgame. Hartley sunk another three to give UConn a lead with 2:09 remaining, one it didn’t relent.

The Huskies eventually went on to win 65-64 — a result they probably wouldn’t have pulled off without Hartley’s heroics.


Best of social media

Saylor Poffenbarger officially joins the team:

It’s apparently hockey week:

BC head coach Jerry York reached his 1,100th career win just days after Auriemma passed the same mark.

Former UConn women’s hockey player Theresa Knutson hanging out with a couple of former Huskies in the NWHL bubble:

Quotables

Nika 1, Geno 0

Geno reflected on the death of Kobe Bryant, one year after the tragic helicopter crash:

AP Poll

  1. Louisville (—)
  2. NC State (—)
  3. UConn (—)
  4. South Carolina (—)
  5. UCLA (+1)

Notables:

  • Stanford dropped to No. 6 after losing its second game of the season.
  • DePaul moved up one spot to No. 17.
  • Arkansas fell four spots to No. 19.
  • Tennessee moved up to No. 20 from No. 25.