by Jim Clark
After watching two different No. 2 seeds fall within the second spherical, UConn barely escaped an analogous destiny Monday night time, in spherical 2 of the NCAA Event in opposition to seventh-seed UCF.
Neither crew had appeared ahead to this matchup of groups that shared the AAC convention for seven years, and 13 earlier video games. In a sport that each groups described as “ugly” and “bodily,” the Huskies held hit the free throws they wanted to drag out an in depth 52-47 win.
The Knight’s lively protection rushed UConn right into a sequence of missed layups and compelled pictures, as they held them to only .292 capturing, and 22 factors beneath their common. On the similar time, the Huskies’ protection pressured 20 UCF turnovers, which was simply sufficient for them to outlive and advance to the Bridgeport regional.
“Yeah, it was a battle the entire sport,” UConn guard Christyn Williams mentioned. “We knew coming into this sport they’d be very bodily and really aggressive. We simply tried to throw the primary punch, and hold punching them.”
“We didn’t have our greatest sport in the present day, however I’m actually pleased with our crew. We grinded it out. It was very ugly, however we obtained the W and that’s all that issues.”
The Knights truly appeared to throw the primary punch, or not less than to parry that of the Huskies, logging 46 % capturing and a 18-12 lead after 10 minutes. UConn missed 5 layups that interval, whereas UCF obtained the ball inside, and hit a number of threes exterior.
“We have been anticipating to be bodily,” Knight guard Diamond Battles mentioned. “However I don’t suppose they have been anticipating us to be as bodily.”
“The toughness, that’s what we’re. That’s who we’re. UCF is a tricky, gritty crew and we’ll all the time be that approach; nothing will change it. From the start we knew how we needed to play and we performed that approach for 40 minutes.”
The Huskies regrouped with the entry of Nika Muhl and Dorka Juhasz on the defensive finish, holding their opponents to only 2-11 capturing within the second interval. A Muhl three-pointer put them forward for the primary time, and gave them a 26-23 halftime lead.
The Knights weren’t going anyplace, nonetheless, and hit their first two pictures of the second interval to retake the lead. Regardless of UConn’s slight top benefit, they might get nothing going within the paint. UCF’s ultra-aggressive protection was conserving their opponents from the ring, however that aggression carried with it too many fouls. The Huskies’ uncharacteristically good free throw capturing finally gave them the victory.
The groups exchanged baskets effectively into the third interval. UConn’s hit a number of extra pictures, and went to the road a number of extra instances, feeding a 12-2 run during the last seven minutes of the interval to take their largest lead, 38-30 going into the fourth interval.
Coach Geno Auriemma’s substitution patterns have been a reversion to his short-bench philosophy for the Huskies, going again so long as one can bear in mind. The second quarter turn-around got here with the insertion of Muhl and Juhasz. But, in a battle of defenses, and with a lead as giant as 12 factors, Large East Defensive Participant of the Yr Muhl didn’t play in any respect within the second half.
“Clearly she got here within the second quarter,” Auriemma mentioned. “I imply the entire second quarter she performed virtually. And she or he was instrumental in altering the tempo of the sport. However I simply felt like we wanted offense and nothing in opposition to Nika in any respect. Nothing.”
The fourth quarter, just like the third, belonged, simply barely, to UConn. Two Azzi Fudd threes, and a mid-range jumper by Paige Bueckers, gave them their largest lead, 48-36, with slightly below 5 minutes remaining.
UCF got here out a timeout with two open jumpers by Brittney Smith round a 3 by Battles to chop the result in 5. Auriemma known as a timeout with 1:39 remaining. Popping out of that break, his crew turned it over on a shot-clock violation.
Battles drove, was fouled, and made each free throws, reducing it to 3, capping a 9-0 run wherein the Huskies missed all seven of their pictures, and misplaced the ball twice on shot clock violations.
Bueckers missed a 3 as time ran out once more, and Juhasz was blocked after an offensive board. The Knights superior the ball with 34 seconds remaining, after which Smith was fouled. She then missed the primary shot, and misplaced the second on a lane violation. UConn, main by three with 22.7 seconds, superior the ball with its final timeout.
They hadn’t scored in 4:33 when Williams was fouled with 19.6.seconds remaining. She made each free throws to pad her crew’s result in 50-45. Their opponents superior the ball with their last timeout.
Even at this level, with protection at a premium, Muhl sat on the bench, not having performed one minute within the second half.
UConn fouled Smith on the following play, and he or she hit each free throws to chop the lead again to 3 with 16 seconds left. UCF needed to foul on the inbounds, and Fudd hit each free throws to increase the lead again to 5, and seal the sport.
A rushed three try by Masseny Kaba missed the whole lot, and the Huskies escaped to the Candy 16, wanting something however invincible.
They missed 9 layups, and shot simply 29 % for the day, simply 14-48 from the sector. They didn’t make a area purpose within the final 4:52, as they watched their lead dwindle from 12 to 3.
They did, nonetheless, hit 6-6 free throws within the last interval, 4 from Fudd, who led all scorers with 16 factors (on simply 4-13 capturing, all threes). UConn, who’ve typically struggled from the charity stripe, received the sport on the free throw line, hitting 18 of 23. Their protection pressured 20 turnovers, scoring 15 factors off them.
The Knights received the battle of the boards, 35-29, however scored simply six second likelihood factors off their 10 offensive rebounds. Simply because the Huskies received the sport on the free throw line, their opponents misplaced it there, capturing simply 10-20.
Each coaches acknowledged the very bodily nature of the sport, and neither appeared happy by the officiating, which fouled out two UConn starters (Edwards and Nelson-Ododa) and one key sub from UCF (Alicia Lewis). Smith was restricted to 21 minutes attributable to foul bother. The officers appeared to permit any type of contact between guards, and little or no within the paint.
“You recognize, typically we overlook that basketball is a sport that entails loads of contact,” Auriemma mentioned. “Soccer is a collision sport; basketball is a contact sport, proper? So there’s going to be loads of contact.”
“There’s instances once you’re simply in a rock struggle and also you simply gotta determine a method to get by means of it. And there’s different instances the place it feels such as you’re at a ballet and no one’s touching no one. And the whole lot is cool. You shoot, I shoot, you shoot, I shoot. West Coast basketball. I feel we had some West Coast officers.”
Fudd led all scorers with 16 factors on 4 threes and people essential free throws. Battles led UCF with 12 factors, 5 from the road.
UConn subsequent performs No. 3 Indiana, which itself barely survived their sport in opposition to No. 11 Princeton, 56-55.