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Elite Eight: UConn women’s basketball takes down NC State, 91-87

It took two overtimes to seal the deal but the Huskies advance to their 14th straight Final Four after an instant classic.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball advanced to the Final Four after claiming a victory for the ages. It was the first Women’s NCAA Tournament game to go to double overtime in the Elite Eight or later.

The Huskies led most of the game but then lost the lead in the fourth quarter. They needed a comeback and a last-second stop to force overtime. Two overtimes later, UConn defeated the top-seeded NC State Wolfpack, 91-87, to make its 14th straight Final Four.

Even with two extra sessions, the game went down to the wire. Christyn Williams finished a well-executed final sequence with a layup with five seconds left to finish with 21 points on the night and put UConn up four. For most of the fourth quarter and two overtimes, the two teams traded the lead back and forth in a tightly-contested battle.

The Huskies had chances to win it at the end of both regulation and the first overtime but couldn’t close it out.

With 26 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, Olivia Nelson-Ododa missed a pair of free throws that would’ve given UConn the lead. The Huskies started the game 1-of-8 from the free-throw line and had some sloppy offensive execution late but came up with a stop on the defensive end to force overtime.

In the first overtime, it looked like UConn had the game wrapped up when Paige Bueckers hit two free throws to take a three-point lead with six seconds left but NC State’s Jakia Brown-Turner hit a game-tying 3-pointer from the corner to force the second overtime.

Bueckers was lights out from the second half on, finishing with 27 points, 23 after halftime. Azzi Fudd scored 19 in a breakout postseason performance. Aaliyah Edwards was huge in the extra periods with six points and a handful of big rebounds before fouling out. Bueckers was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Bridgeport Regional while Fudd and Williams were named to the All-Regional team.

In the second overtime, Bueckers hit a triple to put UConn up three on its first possession. The Huskies never relinquished the lead, advancing to the program’s 22nd Final Four.

NC State scored on its first possession to take a quick 2-0 lead but Williams quickly put UConn ahead, scoring seven of the team’s first nine points. The Huskies maintained a slim lead through the first 10 minutes but opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run which prompted the Wolfpack to take a timeout.

The Huskies lost Dorka Juhász midway through the second quarter due to a serious left wrist injury. She fell to the court after being fouled on a drive and her teammates immediately motioned for the team trainer. Juhász was taken straight into the locker room and returned to the bench in street clothes with a bandage/cast and sling on her left arm.

After the injury, NC State scored four straight points from the line to cut the lead to five points but the Huskies answered with back-to-back baskets to push it back to double digits. As the second quarter wound down, UConn did just enough to keep the Wolfpack at an arm’s length and went into halftime with a 34-28 lead.

NC State opened the third quarter with a 5-0 run to get within a single point. Then, Bueckers took over. First, she hit a mid-range jumper for UConn’s first basket of the second half and answered it with another shot from the free-throw line that put the Huskies up by six.

A few minutes later, the Wolfpack had a chance to tie the game but missed a transition layup. UConn came down the court and found Bueckers again, who hit another bucket to make it a two-score game once again.

NC State started the final period on a 7-2 run and went ahead for the first time since the opening minute, which prompted Geno Auriemma to take a timeout. The teams had three lead changes and five ties in the final period of regulation.

In the first bonus period, UConn made all eight of its free throws. While NC State kept the game alive with a clutch shot in the final seconds, the Huskies were unfazed and quickly went ahead in double overtime.

UConn will now head to Minneapolis, where it’ll face Stanford in the national semifinal on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET.