ALBANY—Despite a second half scare, the UConn Huskies overcame the UCLA Bruins 69-61, bringing them one game closer to their twelfth straight Final Four.
“We didn’t come here to play close. We came here to win,” said Cori Close, UCLA’s head coach.
UConn started off the game in their usual form, executing their offense with great command. Napheesa Collier scored 10 of the Huskies’ first 13 points and by the end of the first quarter they found themselves with a seven point lead.
The Huskies had trouble with their defensive rotations for most of the first half. Over commitments and poor communication left the UCLA shooters wide open. Fortunately the Bruins couldn’t find their shot, shooting only 26 percent in the first half. But if you leave a team open for that long, they’ll burn you. UCLA rattled off a 7-0 run to end the half while holding UConn scoreless for the last 5:14.
Napheesa Collier said, “They’re very long and physical so it made things difficult.”
The Bruins continued to roll as they moved into the third quarter. UCLA outscored UConn 24-18 in the quarter. Guards Lindsey Corsaro and Kennedy Burke led the team with six points each in the quarter. UCLA continued to push forward in the fourth quarter but it was just too difficult to compete with an inspired UConn team. They outscored UCLA by seven to clinch their bid in the Elite Eight. The Huskies’s were led in the fourth quarter by Crystal Dangerfield’s nine of her 13 points, all of which came deep in the shot clock when they needed her most. Napheesa Collier also posted a 25 point double double while Japreece Dean scored 16 points for UCLA on 6-22 shooting.
“During a timeout they look like they were done… But then at some point they remembered, we’re UConn and this is what we do,” said head coach Geno Auriemma.
UConn will go on to play the number one seeded Louisville Cardinals in the Elite Eight. Back in January, the Huskies fell to the Cardinals 78-69.