Freshman phenom Paige Bueckers made two clutch threes to put No. 1 seed UConn back up by double digits early in the fourth, she and Evina Westbrook just barely missed out on triple-doubles and Christyn Williams scored a game-high 25 points as the Huskies defeated the No. 5 seed Iowa Hawkeyes 92-72 to advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
UConn will now face the winner of No. 2 seed Baylor vs. No. 6 seed Michigan in the River Walk Region final.
An Anna Makurat triple made it 85-70 UConn after Iowa dealt with some turnover problems late in the fourth. Iowa had cut it to nine at 7:39 and 6:58 remaining in the final frame, but both times Bueckers responded with a 3-pointer.
Bueckers finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Westbrook was good for 17 points, nine boards and 10 helpers.
McKenna Warnock led Iowa with 20 points in defeat and the Hawkeyes’ freshman phenom Caitlin Clark added 19.
The third quarter saw Iowa cut it to eight twice, but was about to go into the books even before a Clark three at the buzzer cut the Hawkeyes’ deficit to 11.
There was a stretch of Bueckers vs. Clark action in the third and Bueckers did a good job of not trying to do too much in the frame while padding her assist and rebound stats. Clark won the frame individually vs. Bueckers, 12-7, after losing the first, 5-3.
Williams’ 3-pointer with 1:42 left in the second that made it 45-33 UConn gave her 18 points, which led all scorers at the break.
Westbrook had 11 at halftime, while Gabbie Marshall had nine for Iowa off 3-of-4 shooting from distance. Warnock had chipped in with eight points on 2-of-3 shooting from deep for the Hawkeyes. Clark had seven points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field and 1-of-6 shooting from three and Bueckers was a much more efficient 3-of-6 from the floor (0-of-1 from long range) with six points.
UConn outrebounded Iowa 26-12 and outshot it 56.4 percent to 37.1 percent in the first half and led despite not attempting a single free throw.
Westbrook started 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, including a triple made with Clark’s hand in her face that made it 29-21 UConn with 8:20 to go in the first half. Williams then went on an individual 5-0 run later in the second to give UConn its first double-digit advantage at 36-26.
Clark made a lucky bank-in three with 1:45 to go in the first and that served as the first points from either her or Bueckers. It cut UConn’s lead to 18-13. Bueckers went on to make a three and a mid-range shot in the remaining 1:45 of the opening frame.
The Huskies led 22-18 after one and Iowa was still hanging around because of Clark’s supporting cast. Marshall was 2-of-2 from deep with six points and Kate Martin had five.
While it was Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark who were so hyped up entering the game, it was another freshman, forward Aaliyah Edwards of UConn, who scored the game’s first basket after stealing the ball from Clark. Edwards (18 points) went on to score six of the Huskies’ first eight points before either Bueckers or Clark scored.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 11 points and seven assists for the winners.