Behind a herculean effort from Paige Bueckers, UConn women’s basketball defeated No. 1 South Carolina in overtime, 63-59. It’s the Huskies’ first win in overtime since Dec. 2004.
Bueckers made her final five shots including a circus 3-pointer in overtime with 10 seconds left that bounced off the rim to the height of the shot clock before falling back through the cylinder to put UConn up by four and clinch the win. It was her only made 3-pointer of the night. She finished with a game-high 31 points and became the first Husky freshman to score 30 points in three straight games.
The Gamecocks ripped off an 11-point run in the fourth quarter to take a four-point lead with only 1:35 remaining but Bueckers brought UConn back with a pair of jumpers to tie the game at 48. The two teams traded turnovers in the final minute, which gave South Carolina the last shot. The Gamecocks got four looks at the basket in the final four seconds but couldn’t find the winning basket.
Bueckers scored all nine points for UConn in overtime, including the final seven points of the game. No other Huskies finished in double-figure scoring. Aaliyah Edwards and Nika Muhl both totaled eight points while Olivia Nelson-Ododa played a key role on offense with a team-high six assists to go along with seven rebounds.
As a team, UConn took a season-high 73 shots but made just 29 (39.7%). It only made two of its 15 attempts from three as well.
South Carolina star Aliyah Boston led the Gamecocks with 17 points and 15 rebounds. The visitors shot 36.8 percent from the field, made just one 3-pointer, and only went 8-15 from the free-throw line. They did not record a single fast-break point.
UConn got off to another slow start and didn’t find the basket until the 7:00 minute mark of the first quarter. The Husky offense mostly consisted of Nelson-Ododa taking jumpers early on, which didn’t work out well with the junior starting just 1-5 from the field.
Luckily, UConn’s defense came out with plenty of energy and forced six South Carolina turnovers in the first quarter, which limited the impact from the Gamecocks shooting 50 percent. Despite just scoring 10 first-quarter points, the Huskies were only down four after 10 minutes.
UConn’s shots started to fall in the second period, which helped the Huskies cobble together a 6-0 run which tied the game for the first time since the opening minute. Even with that, UConn couldn’t grab the lead from South Carolina in part because of eight second-quarter turnovers.
The Huskies made more of an effort to get the ball inside, with 10 points of their 14 second-quarter points coming in the paint. UConn also generated plenty from its defense by turning 12 Gamecock turnovers into six points the other way.
The Huskies took their first lead of the game with 1:02 left before the half and were primed to go into the locker room with a three-point advantage after Edwards found the basket with four seconds left but South Carolina’s Zia Cooke hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to even it up at 24-24.
That shot was the first 3-pointer of the game as the two teams went a combined 1-11 from beyond the arc and 35.4 percent overall.
Out of the break, the Gamecocks jumped out with two quick baskets before Bueckers finally answered. After eight points in the first half, the freshman dropped 10 in the third quarter to help put UConn up by four entering the final period.
The Huskies did have to deal with foul trouble, though. Nelson-Ododa was forced to take a seat after picking up her fourth foul with a minute left in the third quarter while Bueckers got her third shortly after.
UConn took a seven-point lead early in the fourth — its largest of the day — before South Carolina responded back with 11 straight points to go back ahead by four. That’s when Bueckers took over, scoring the final four points of regulation to send the game into overtime.
In the extra period, the Huskies opened the scoring with a pair of free throws from Bueckers before the Gamecocks came back with five points in a row to go up by three. UConn got a big defensive stop to keep it a one-possession game, which allowed Bueckers to work her magic to pull out the win.
According to the AP’s Doug Feinberg, this was the first matchup of the two top teams in the country to go to overtime since 1992. UConn improves to 14-1 on the season and 22-3 overall in games between No. 1 and No. 2.
Next, UConn will return to Big East play against Seton Hall on Wednesday at Gampel Pavilion.