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No. 3 UConn goes on two key runs, holds off miracle comeback by UCLA

The UConn Huskies have not lost back-to-back games since 1993. After losing to Georgia Tech on Thursday, Evina Westbrook and Dorka Juhász had big games to lead them past the UCLA Bruins.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Connecticut
Evina Westbrook
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

A bad call, a technical foul on Geno Auriemma, a UConn run to open up a comfortable lead with very little time left, a slew of missed free throws that allowed UCLA to nearly make a miracle comeback and an impressive steal in the post by guard Christyn Williams that did the Bruins in highlighted the Huskies’ 71-61 win on Saturday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

The win kept UConn’s 28-year streak of not losing back-to-back games alive after the team lost to unranked Georgia Tech on Thursday. That loss broke the Huskies’ 239-game winning streak against unranked opponents, which went back to 2012. UCLA, like Georgia Tech is unranked but receiving votes. UConn was without reigning Player of the Year Paige Bueckers (knee) and No. 1 Hoop Gurlz recruit Azzi Fudd (foot) in both games.

The T came with 7:44 remaining after Evina Westbrook was hit on the arm and no foul was called. UCLA’s Charisma Osborne made both free throws to bring the Bruins within two.

From there, UConn (6-2, 1-0 Big East) went on a 13-1 run that featured five points apiece from Williams and Dorka Juhász, as well as a three from freshman Caroline Ducharme. A five-point possession for the Huskies that saw Williams make a layup and miss a free throw, allowing Ducharme to hit her three, highlighted the run.

UCLA (5-3, 0-0 Pac-12) fought back with an individual five-point possession from Osborne that cut the Bruins’ deficit to nine with 1:09 to play. Juhasz then missed two free throws and UCLA stunned the Huskies by cutting it to six on an Osborne three with 56 seconds remaining. Westbrook then missed two free throws and Dominique Onu made a layup to cut it to four with 37 ticks left.

After Westbrook went 1-of-2 on her next trip to the line, the Bruins lost the ball out of bounds. That hurt their comeback chances and, after another 1-of-2 trip for Westbrook, Williams threw another wrench in UCLA’s plans with 27 seconds to go when she reached up high like a cornerback in the end zone. to intercept a Onu pass intended for Ilmar’l Thomas, who was in the paint. That was followed by a 1-of-2 trip for Williams that made it a three-possession game.

Onu’s layup ended up being the Bruins’ last basket.

UCLA led by four after one and by two at the break. UConn took the lead on a Westbrook floater that made it 43-42 with 3:41 to go in the third. That extended a run to 7-0 and it became 14-0 after an Aaliyah Edwards steal and fast break layup, a Juhász layup off a nice pass from Westbrook and a Williams three.

The Bruins would fight back, but the Auriemma technical sparked that second wind for the Huskies.

Westbrook finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Juhasz (5-of-5 from the field) was good for 16 points and 16 boards. Olivia Nelson-Ododa added 10 points and eight boards while Ducharme had a big game with 14 points. Williams rounded out UConn’s double-figure scorers with 11 points.

Osborne was spectacular in defeat with 26 points on 7-of-16 shooting from beyond the arc. However, the rest of her team shot 1-of-15 from downtown, while UConn was a more efficient 5-of-12 as a team.

Both teams shot below 60 percent from the charity stripe.