UConn women’s basketball staved off an upset bid from the 7-seed UCF Knights to earn a 52-47 victory and advance to its 28th consecutive Sweet Sixteen.
The Huskies led by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter, but UCF stormed back with a 9-0 run to get it within three points with 53 seconds left. UConn had a chance to ice the game in the final minute, but Paige Bueckers had a 3-pointer rim out and Dorka Juhász couldn’t finish the second chance opportunity.
On the ensuing possession, the Knights got to the line but missed both free throws and had to foul. The Huskies made their final four shots from the line while UCF air balled its last attempt with 3.6 seconds to go to give UConn the hard-fought victory.
Azzi Fudd led the Huskies with 16 points while Christyn Williams added 12. As a team, UConn made 14-46 from the field (29 percent) and missed 10 of its 12 layup attempts. However, the Knights went 10-20 from the line and turned the ball over 20 times.
UConn started the game with a layup from Olivia Nelson-Ododa on its first possession. The Huskies wouldn’t lead again until the 4:05 mark in the second quarter and made just one more layup the rest of the way.
UCF came out with its trademark defense and physicality, and UConn struggled with it initially. On the defensive end, the Huskies gave up 18 first quarter points but managed just 12 themselves. UConn got plenty of open looks inside and out but didn’t sink them.
After not taking a single free throw in the opening 10 minutes, UConn started getting to the line in the second quarter with 11 foul shots in the first four minutes. However, the Huskies made just seven — the first seven points of UConn’s second quarter — and struggled to regain the lead despite holding UCF to just two points in the first six minutes of the period.
UConn finally went back ahead when Nika Mühl hit a 3-pointer with 4:05 remaining in the half, though the Knights quickly answered with a triple of their own on the next possession. Unfazed, the Huskies came back with four straight points to go into the locker room with a 26-23 advantage.
Out of the break, UConn missed its first three shots which allowed UCF to re-take the lead at 28-26. But over the final eight minutes of the third quarter, the Huskies defense came alive, forcing eight turnovers and holding the Knights to just a single basket. Over that same span, UConn went on a 12-2 run and went into the final 10 minutes with a 38-30 lead — its largest of the game to that point.
The two teams traded baskets in the early minutes of the fourth, while helped the Huskies to maintain a multiple-possession advantage. Then, UCF made its run. The Knights scored nine-straight points to cut UConn’s lead down to just three. The Huskies struggled with fouls as Nelson-Ododa and Edwards fouled out on back-to-back possessions and continued to miss layups.
While UConn missed its last six field goals, it also held UCF without one over the final 3:54. The two teams traded free throws over the final minute which allowed the Huskies to hang on for the five-point victory.
Bueckers played 32 minutes in the win — her highest total since returning from injury — and finished with nine points and two assists. Mühl and Caroline Ducharme did not play in the second half.
With the win, UConn will advance to Bridgeport, where the Huskies will play 3-seed Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen on Saturday.