Bueckers, UConn headed back to Final Four

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Mar. 29—BRIDGEPORT — The UConn women's basketball team is headed to Minneapolis.

Leading the way is Minnesota native Paige Bueckers.

Bueckers scored 15 of her 27 points in the extra sessions and was named the NCAA Bridgeport Regional's Most Outstanding Player as the No. 2 Huskies topped top-seeded North Carolina State 91-87 in double overtime in the final Monday to advance to their 14th straight NCAA Final Four.

"It was just me trying to stay confident in myself," Bueckers said. "And also just my teammates and coaches instilling that confidence in me that they trust me in those moments and they trust me with the ball and they trust me to do the right thing. Coach is always huge on me about just making sure to find a way to win. I think that was key tonight."

UConn (29-5) will play reigning national champion Stanford in a semifinal game Friday at the Target Center. The other semifinal will feature South Carolina against Louisville. The national championship game is Sunday.

It will be the Huskies' first game in Minnesota since they won their first title in 1995.

Christyn Williams added 21 points and Azzi Fudd 19 for UConn, which has won 14 straight games. Both were named to the all-regional team.

"We found a way to win, and we stuck together, and we stayed composed," Bueckers said. "It was a really exciting game for sure."

All-regional selections Jakia Brown-Turner (20 points, eight rebounds) and Elissa Cunane (18 points, nine rebounds) paced North Carolina State (32-4), which was seeking its first Final Four berth since 1998.

UConn led 34-28 at halftime but fell behind by four in the fourth quarter. Williams had five points in a 7-2 run that put the Huskies back in front. Olivia Nelson-Ododa had two free throws to break a tie with 28.1 seconds left but missed, though the Huskies came up with a defensive stop to send the game to overtime.

Brown-Turner's 3-pointer from the corner with 0.8 seconds left forced a second overtime.

Bueckers' trey to open the session gave the Huskies the lead for good. A Williams hoop made it 89-85 with 21.1 seconds to go. Brown-Turner answered for the Wolfpack but a Williams layup with 5.2 seconds left iced it.

"The first overtime we did a great job of just keeping our composure and staying together," Fudd said. "In that second overtime you could tell the way Paige started us off, that really just kind of started — the way Paige started us off — was big."

The Huskies suffered a blow in the first half when graduate student forward Dorka Juhasz suffered a left wrist injury.

UConn had been 0-5 in overtime in its NCAA tournament history.

"If you watched the game, there's really not much that you can say to add to it," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It was pretty remarkable. It's one of the best games I've ever been a part of since I've been at UConn, regular season, postseason, doesn't really matter.

"It was just amazing the way the 10 kids that are on the court are playing for their lives. Nobody wants to lose, and everybody is making big play after big play, and nobody backed down from the moment. It's a shame one of us had to lose, right? It would be great if both of us could go. I don't know what to say. Just really proud of these guys. They don't make it easy, but they make it worth it."

The victory also allowed the Huskies to pass Tennessee for most tournament wins with 129.

UConn will host North Carolina State in a regular-season game next season.

For coverage of all sports in the JI's 18-town coverage area, plus updates on the UConn women's basketball team and head coach Geno Auriemma, follow Carl Adamec on Twitter: @CarlAdamec, Facebook: Carl Adamec, and Instagram: @CarlAdamec.