Connecticut is the most experienced program in the modern NCAA Tournament, having advanced to 28 consecutive Sweet 16s, 15 consecutive Elite Eights, and 13 consecutive Final Fours. But this particular Indiana team has plenty of experience — Ali Patberg is six years older than Azzi Fudd! — and the Hoosiers came ready to play against the favored Huskies in what amounted to a home game for UConn in the Bridgeport regional.
That grit helped Indiana remain competitive even as the team’s offense fell apart in the second half, with X turnovers compared to X made field goals. But it wasn’t enough for the Hoosiers to secure a win. The Huskies remain inevitable, moving on to their 16th straight Elite Eight with a 75-58 win. Four players finished in double figures for Connecticut, led by Christyn Williams and Paige Bueckers with 15 points apiece.
Indiana found good shots in the midrange to start, many of them in semi-transition, as Patberg and Grace Berger used their pull-up jumpers for early offense. When the Hoosiers needed to work in the half court, they were able to find Mackenzie Holmes in the post or get some drives from Aleksa Gulbe and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary.
The no. 3 seed was even doing a good job of initial defense on the Huskies, but the lone problem was closing out possessions with defensive rebounds, and Connecticut capitalized on those extra opportunities. The Huskies had an 8-2 advantage on the offensive boards in the first half, and combined with a 7-4 turnover margin, they got 10 more shot attempts. That allowed Connecticut to build a four-point halftime lead despite shooting nine percent worse from the floor.
Aaliyah Edwards was a particular menace on the glass. The Indiana scouting report was to leave Edwards open outside of the paint for jumpers, but Edwards gobbled up that space after misses, getting to the rim without being boxed out for four of UConn’s offensive boards in the first half and five total.
The rebounding differential continued to be the story to start the third quarter. On the first Huskies possession, the Hoosiers committed a foul trying to keep Edwards off the glass. After the reset, Olivia Nelson-Ododa got a putback. Two and a half minutes later, UConn capped off a 16-0 run by getting yet another offensive rebound on a Christyn Williams free throw, leading to more free shots for Edwards.
Down 20, Indiana would not relent. Cardaño-Hillary was relentless with her pressure to keep the Hoosiers within contact. The offense just couldn’t keep up long enough, and the Huskies kept getting extra opportunities, finishing with 14 second-chance points.
Even with the questions about the initial offense, Connecticut won this game more handily than its second-round contest and looks to be rounding into form heading into Monday’s matchup against NC State. Meanwhile, Indiana closes the book on the careers of several Hoosiers, including Patberg and Cardaño-Hillary, who helped change the program.