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UConn wins ‘ugly-looking’ NCAA Tournament game in front of sell-out crowd

UConn Huskies forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa #20 drives hard to the basket as the Huskies take on UCF Knights on March 21, 2022.
Joe Amon
/
Connecticut Public
UConn Huskies forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa #20 drives hard to the basket as the Huskies take on UCF Knights on March 21, 2022.

Just 22.7 seconds were left in Monday’s NCAA Tournament second round game. The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team had given up 9 straight points. University of Central Florida forward Brittney Smith headed to the free throw line with a chance to get her team within a point.

That’s when a student-dominated crowd in Storrs got as loud as it did all night. Smith missed the first. The second was no good — lane violation.

“They made it feel like an extra-special game,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said Monday night. “They reminded everybody why Connecticut basketball is Connecticut basketball and why our fans are viewed the way they’re viewed.”

The Huskies needed to feed off of every bit of energy from the fans in a 52-47 victory over UCF Monday, a game Auriemma said after it was over with was “ugly-looking.”

“It was what we thought it would be: it was going to be really difficult. It was going to be really ugly looking and it was,” Auriemma said.

The Huskies shot 29% from the field for the game. They were outrebounded for just the fifth time this season. Two of their starters fouled out.

Senior guard Christyn Williams said it was the kind of game you had to grind out to win. She played against UCF when the two teams shared a conference her freshman and sophomore year, so she said she knew the Knights were “super-aggressive.”

“It was very ugly, but we got the dub,” Williams said after the game.

Williams scored 12 points. Teammate Azzi Fudd led the way for the Huskies with 16. The freshman said the atmosphere surrounding the game was something she hadn’t experienced before in college.

“That made the game a lot of fun,” Fudd said. “I think it also helped with our momentum—the crowd was great.”

As good as the crowd was, Auriemma said at least in the opening minutes it may have gotten his players too “amped up.” UConn hit just five of 19 shots in the opening quarter of the game.

“[The crowd] got us so amped up that shots we normally make with our eyes closed in other games, we struggled with,” Auriemma said.

UConn trailed by six after one, but two key runs gave them a big lead in the game. The Huskies outscored UCF 14-to-five in the second quarter and then had a 12-to-0 run spanning seven minutes in the second half. That’s what put them up by 12 with just under five minutes left in the game.

“You can play really, really well and get up a bunch and then, you’re capable of doing things that let the game get back to three,” Auriemma said.

The 11-time national champion coach says that knowing those two things can be very valuable for a team—that there’s something to be said about not the Huskies not letting the game get away from them during UCF’s late run.

He does say the team needs to play better Saturday. UConn advances to the Sweet 16 and travels locally to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The Huskies play Indiana University Saturday at 2 p.m.
Copyright 2022 Connecticut Public Radio. To see more, visit Connecticut Public Radio.

Frankie Graziano joined CPBN in October of 2011 as a sports producer. In addition to reporting for WNPR, Graziano produces feature profiles for CPTV and the web.
Joe Amon
Ayannah Brown
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