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UConn women’s basketball rides third quarter surge past Indiana and into the Elite Eight

After a shaky end to the first half, the Huskies put the game away with a 16-0 run to open the third quarter.

Evina Westbrook celebrates during UConn’s 75-58 win over Indiana in the Sweet 16.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The UConn women’s basketball team went into halftime with a bad taste in its mouth. The Huskies were almost certain they’d take a seven point lead into the locker room until a bizarre sequence in the final seconds gave Indiana one last possession.

Aaliyah Edwards rebounded a miss as the shot clock expired, but the ball bounced off the rim which canceled out any potential violation. However, everyone on the floor stopped at the sound of the buzzer and the clock froze with 1.3 seconds left. Edwards, presumably believing the half had ended or a whistle had been blown, dropped the ball out of bounds.

After a short discussion, the officials awarded the ball to the Hoosiers with 1.3 ticks still on the clock. They inbounded it to Aleksa Gulbe, who drained a 3-pointer as time expired to cut UConn’s lead to four. In the moment, it felt like a play that could turn the game on its head.

“We were not happy how the first half ended,” Christyn Williams said.

That’s what ultimately happened — just not the way everyone expected. The Huskies came out of the break on fire and ripped off a 16-0 run to take full control of the game.

After starting the game without a point in the first 2:35, they racked up 11 points in that same span at the start of the second half. Indiana never really recovered and UConn moved onto the Elite Eight with a 75-58 victory.

“We had a little bit of momentum going into halftime,” Hoosiers’ coach Teri Moren said postgame. “We probably needed to stay out there because we went back into the locker room and made some adjustments. But we came back out in the third quarter and it was just really a bugaboo for us. They got off to a 16-0 run and you just can’t allow that to happen against a team like UConn. It’s very difficult to overcome a start like that.”

Indiana shot over 50% in the first half despite only assisting on two of its 14 baskets. The Hoosiers also hit an “easy three” on the final shot, as Williams put it. As it regrouped at the half, UConn knew it needed to lock down on the defensive end.

“The emphasis at halftime was just come out straight out the gate with our defense,” Williams said.

“We didn’t really like the way the first half ended,” Paige Bueckers added. “I think it starts with our energy on defense — always. Once that picks up, our offense is better.”

UConn forced a miss on each of the Hoosiers’ first three possession, grabbed the rebound and immediately went down the court and scored. Indiana called a timeout to try and stop the bleeding but ended up only making matters worse. Out of the huddle, the Hoosiers committed two turnovers on their next three possessions — all of which resulted in points for the Huskies.

“During that stretch, there was a look about us that we felt exceptionally confident,” Geno Auriemma explained. “We knew exactly where we were going. We knew where the ball was going. We knew where the shots were coming from. We could pick and choose which shots we wanted to take, and we got more lay-ups than we had gotten in the previous two quarters.”

“We’re at our best when we’re going up and down the floor,” he added. “You’ve got to get easy buckets and we managed that do that.”

By the time Indiana ended the drought, UConn’s lead ballooned to 53-35. The Hoosiers never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way.

While the Huskies’ offense scuffled at points after the run — they managed just 10 points in the last five minutes of the third and first five minutes of the fourth — their defense never gave Indiana’s offense the oxygen it desperately needed to make a comeback bid.

As a result, UConn’s 16-point run powered it to a 17-point victory.

“I thought we did an amazing job defensively,” Auriemma said. “I thought that was the difference in the game, that we were able to get the stops that we needed.”