UConn women’s basketball had no answers defensively as the Huskies were upset by the No. 19 Arkansas Razorbacks, 90-87.
Arkansas’ Chelsea Dungee scored 37 points, the most by a UConn opponent since the 1999-2000 season. It’s also the most points the Huskies have allowed since a 91-89 loss to Notre Dame in the 2018 Final Four — a game that went to overtime.
Despite trailing by 10 entering the fourth quarter, the Huskies fought back to re-take the lead. Arkansas punched back with a 13-3 run to go up by eight but UConn responded to get within three off a Christyn Williams layup with 34 seconds to go.
The Huskies chose not to foul and forced a miss but failed to call a timeout until .3 seconds remained. With so little time left, they couldn’t get a potential game-tying shot off before the buzzer sounded.
Paige Bueckers returned from her ankle injury and did all she could with 15 points in the fourth quarter and a career-high 27 total. Evina Westbrook scored 19 points and hit 5-7 from three to go along with seven assists and six rebounds.
Williams finished with 16 points but only four of those came in the second half. Olivia Nelson-Ododa also struggled with just two points and two rebounds on the night. She played just nine minutes total in the second half.
UConn got off to a slow start on both ends of the floor as Arkansas pulled out to an 8-2 lead. Williams finally got the Huskies on the board with a mid-range jumper and scored their first six points.
Soon after, UConn jumped out on a 10-0 run boosted by its defense which held the Razorbacks without a basket for over two minutes. That pushed the Huskies out to a six point lead, though their offense immediately went cold — UConn made just one basket over the final four minutes of the quarter.
UConn’s offense continued to struggle into the second period, which allowed Arkansas to claw back and eventually re-take the lead. After the Huskies went through an eight-minute stretch where they scored just eight points, the offense finally snapped out of its funk and went on a 12-2 run to go ahead by eight.
As was the case all night long, that lead didn’t last long. Arkansas’ Marquesha Davis snapped UConn’s run with a layup and started a 11-2 stretch from the Razorbacks which put them back ahead, 41-40, though the Huskies took a two-point lead into the halftime thanks a 3-pointer from Aubrey Griffin just before the buzzer.
Out of the half, Arkansas came out with its hair on fire and scored the first 11 points to go ahead by nine. Bueckers made back-to-back buckets to cut into the deficit but the Razorbacks eventually pushed their advantage to 13 points — UConn’s largest deficit of the season.
Much of that came from Dungee, who seemed to score at will all game long. She was particularly deadly in the third period with 13 points on 5-7 shooting.
With the team struggling, Auriemma went with a lineup that included Westbrook and four freshmen — Bueckers, Aaliyah Edwards, Mir McLean and Nika Muhl. With six points and six rebounds, Edwards anchored the Huskies in the post with Nelson-Ododa on the bench but picked up her fourth and fifth fouls in the span of eight seconds towards the end of the third quarter to knock her out of the game.
Despite trailing by double-digits, UConn refused to go quietly in the fourth quarter. Westbrook opened the period with a three followed by a jumper from Bueckers. Soon after, the Huskies scored eight-straight points to take their first lead since the start of the second half. But Arkansas responded back with a 10-0 run of its own, which ultimately proved to be a deficit too large for UConn to climb.
This is the Huskies first loss to a team outside the top 10 since a 57-56 loss to St. John’s in 2012.
UConn will return to Big East play on Sunday when it travels to Chicago for a matchup with No. 17 DePaul. The Huskies will look to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since March 1993, a streak of 1,004 games.