No. 1 UConn women’s basketball team blows past No. 5 Iowa 92-72 in Sweet 16; Christyn Williams leads way with 27

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Shawn McFarland, Hartford Courant
·3 min read
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The conversation leading up to Saturday’s Sweet 16 showdown between No. 1 UConn and No. 5 Iowa was centered around each team’s star freshman — the Huskies’ Paige Bueckers and the Hawkeyes’ Caitlin Clark.

Both guards, Bueckers leads her team in scoring and was named an AP All-American. Clark leads the nation in scoring, and was a second-team All-American.

After slow starts, both finished strong. But it was a different guard who stole the game.

That would be Christyn Williams.

Williams, a former No. 1 overall recruit and junior for the Huskies, scored a game-high 27 points, was the primary defender assigned to Clark and sparked a handful of UConn runs as the Huskies beat the Hawkeyes, 92-72.

In the battle of the top freshmen, Bueckers finished just short of a triple-double with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Clark led her team with 21 points and added three rebounds and five assists.

Here’s how the Huskies did it:

Key to the game

UConn led by 14 points at halftime, but Iowa — the nation’s top 3-point shooting team — was due for a run. The Hawkeyes outscored UConn 26-23 in the third quarter as Clark (12 points in the period on 4 of 5 shooting).

But with each Iowa 3-pointer or run it made in the second half, the Huskies had an answer.

Iowa went on a 7-0 run with four minutes left in the quarter to cut the UConn lead to eight. TheHuskies answered with a similar run of their own to build the lead back up to 15.

In the fourth quarter, McKenna Warnock and Monika Czinano made back-to-back shots to cut UConn’s lead to single digits, but Bueckers answered with a 3-pointer to build the lead back up to 12. Gabbie Marshall then sank a 3-pointer to drop UConn’s lead back to nine, but there again was Bueckers, who hit a second consecutive 3-point shot to extend the lead back to double-figures.

Warnock sank a layup to pull Iowa within 10, but Evina Westbrook stole the ball from Clark and found Williams for an open layup, Anna Makurat hit a 3-pointer and Williams hit a layup to give the Huskies a 87-70 lead with 1:55 to go in the game. Clark sank a layup with under a minute remaining for Iowa’s last points.

Turning point

As Williams got hot, the Huskies began to look more and more comfortable.

She scored 11 of UConn’s first 16 points in the second quarter as the Huskies opened the period on a 16-10 run. The junior sank a jumper with 3:21 to go in the second to give UConn a 38-28 lead. Williams scored 14 of her 18 first-half points in the second quarter, and helped the Huskies stake the 14-point lead at halftime.

Player of the game

Williams with her game-high on 12 of 23 shooting, keyed various UConn runs, and was the primary defender on Clark, who shot just 2-for-11 in the first half.

Up next

UConn will play the winner of No. 2 Baylor and No. 6 Michigan in the Elite Eight on Monday night.

Shawn McFarland can be reached at smcfarland@courant.com