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Pregame notes: UConn getting some time to unwind ahead of Final Four

The Huskies got out of their hotel rooms for a little bit this past week.

Via Christyn Williams’ Instagram

How to watch

When: Friday, April 2, 9:30 p.m. EST

Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

TV: ESPN | Ryan Ruocco (pxp), Rebecca Lobo (analyst), Holly Rowe (sideline)


Radio: UConn Sports Network (97.9 ESPN and affiliates)

Arizona Wildcats

Record: 20-5 (13-4 Pac-12)

Seed: 3

Location: Tuscon, Arizona

Head coach: Adia Barnes (Fifth season)

Coming off an intense, emotional win over Baylor on Monday night with a Final Four matchup with Arizona looming on Friday, UConn women’s basketball had a chance to unwind this week.

With only four teams left, the NCAA set up game rooms for each team that include activities such as ping pong, air hockey, foosball and gaming consoles.

“It was cool, definitely,” Evina Westbrook said. “Just our own kind of space that was different from being in our own hotel room.”

Naturally, it didn’t take long for the games to turn competitive.

“We were kind of checking it out for about 10 minutes and as soon as we stepped in there, everybody was here playing table tennis, air hockey, foosball, PS4 and we’re just screaming having a great time, kind of bringing out the competitive drive in everyone,” Aaliyah Edwards said.

Westbrook quickly jumped on the gaming console and fired up Mortal Kombat. She finished off graduate assistant Becca Day first before taking down Olivia Nelson-Ododa. With two dominant victories, Westbrook scared off any further competition.

“No one wanted to play anymore so I started playing by myself,” she said with a laugh.

On Wednesday, the Huskies took a team trip to the San Antonio Zoo.

While the players enjoyed seeing the animals and getting some fresh air, they were mostly happy to escape the doldrums of the hotel for a few hours.

“That was really cool,” Westbrook said. “Just to get out and be out of our hotel room be out of the same four walls that we’ve been looking at for a couple of weeks now, it was really cool to see the different types of animals — and feeding the giraffe was awesome.”

“We’ve been kind of locked up on a routine and strict schedule,” Edwards said. “For us to get out and just be yourself and just kind of breathe a little bit, it was great.”

Scouting the Wildcats

‘We’re playing against Allen Iverson’: UConn will have hands full with Arizona’s Aari McDonald

Opponent Preview: No. 1 UConn women’s basketball vs. No. 3 Arizona

How they got here

UConn beat 16-seed High Point and 8-seed Syracuse without much trouble in the first two rounds before an entertaining but comfortable win over 5-seed Iowa in the Sweet Sixteen. In the Elite Eight, the Huskies won a game for the ages over 2-seed Baylor thanks to a 19-0 run late in the second half and a strong defensive stand on the final possession. Paige Bueckers “fulfilled the moment” with a 28-point night.

Arizona earned a 3-seed after finishing second in a tough Pac-12 during the regular season. It beat 14-seed Stony Brook in the first round but squeaked out a six-point victory over 11-seed BYU to advance to the program’s first Sweet Sixteen since 1998. The Wildcats haven’t had much trouble since then with a 15-point upset over 2-seed Texas A&M followed by a comfortable 13-point win over 4-seed Indiana to reach their first-ever Final Four.

Series history

UConn and Arizona have only met once: During the Wildcats’ last trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 1998. 9-seed Arizona got within two with just over 10 minutes to play but the 4-seed Huskies pulled away late by holding the Wildcats scoreless over the final 4:51.

“I blacked out at one point in the second half,” Auriemma said postgame.

Adia Barnes, now Arizona’s head coach, had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats. For UConn, Paige Sauer racked up 23 points and 15 boards while Rita Williams had 15 points.

UConn connections

UConn graduate assistant T’Aire “Tee Tee” Starks played for Arizona from 2017-20, though Auriemma doesn’t expect her to divulge everything she knows about the program for the Huskies’ gameplan.

“I don’t think we’re gonna be able to sit down and get an insider’s view of what exactly they’re going to they’re going to do Friday night,” he quipped. “I don’t know that these are some secret war plans that we have access to that are going to put us over the hump. I don’t think that’s how this goes.”

Former UConn guard Morgan Valley also coached at Arizona from 2017-19 before taking over as head coach at Hartford.

By the numbers

11-9 — UConn is 11-9 in national semifinal games, though five of those losses are to Notre Dame.

12 — Arizona will be the Huskies’ 12th semifinal opponent in 20 trips to the Final Four. UConn has played Notre Dame six times, Stanford four, Tennessee twice and Baylor, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Oregon State, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia all once.

10 — The Huskies have been the higher seed in the first game of the Final Four 10 times. They’ve played an equal seed eight times and have only been the lower seed twice — in 1991 and 2018. UConn is 7-3 as the higher seed, 4-4 as an equal seed and 0-2 as the lower seed.

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