sunny.png
Saturday May 21st, 2022 8:09AM

Bueckers can't do it all as UConn comes up short for title

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — At the tail end of the third quarter, Paige Bueckers picked up her first personal foul and plopped down on Connecticut's bench for her only break of the night — a whole 53 seconds of game time.

The Huskies had to lean on their sophomore star as hard as they could against superior South Carolina on Sunday, and against any other team in the country she might have been enough.

But despite another all-out effort by Bueckers, UConn still came up well short — the first loss in program history in the title game — and fell 64-49 to the Gamecocks for the national championship.

“I don’t think from the beginning of the game our offense ever looked like it was in any kind of rhythm, any kind of flow,” coach Geno Auriemma said. “Then Paige tried to take it upon herself — that never works, when one person is trying to.”

Bueckers, playing just 10 miles from where she honed sharp-shooting, slick-passing and ace-ballhandling skills at Hopkins High School, finished with a team-leading 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting with six rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal.

“Now we know how to get here and how hard it is and how hard we have to work all throughout the season and how much we have to overcome,” Bueckers said at the interview podium afterward, her voice wavering and her eyes reddened.

After grinding through an unwelcomed midseason rehab following the left knee injury that cost her 19 games and hitting her stride in the NCAA Tournament, the 2021 AP National Player of the Year had 14 points and five assists in UConn's semifinal victory over Stanford.

The Target Center lobby was packed two hours before tipoff, several rows deep on both sides of the red carpet rolled out for the players to stroll down upon their entry into the arena. Judging by the handheld signs from the adoring kids and teens, Bueckers was by far the VIP of the entourage, even with Auriemma and his 11 national championships.

The Gamecocks have one of the fiercest defenses in the game, and they promised to send multiple defenders at Bueckers to keep her from getting comfortable.

She never struggled, really, but she couldn't find any kind of a rhythm, either, because of all the rebounds that were gobbled up by the Gamecocks and all the turnovers and misses by her teammates. The rest of the Huskies were 16 for 41 from the floor and totaled 14 turnovers.

Azzi Fudd had an illness that kept her away from the morning shootaround and had only three points in 17 minutes. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who had four points and four fouls, played through a groin injury. South Carolina had a whopping 49-24 rebound advantage.

“We wanted to box out really well, push the ball in transition to get them running, get them tired,” Bueckers said. “But South Carolina is a great team. They had a great game.”

After South Carolina sprinted to a 13-2 lead, Bueckers didn't get a shot off until a jumper that bounced off the back rim with 3:21 left in the first quarter — her only attempt of the opening period. She didn't score until midway through the second quarter.

“We usually don’t have any problem getting Paige shots, but tonight it was a problem, and I think South Carolina had everything to do with that,” Auriemma said.

Brea Beal and Destanni Henderson spent most of the night guarding Bueckers. She tried to scrape off screens for catch-and-shoot opportunities or find space for her favored pull-up jumpers, but there wasn't much room in the half court for the Huskies to maneuver. All six of her makes were jump shots. She made one of three tries from 3-point range.

“I knew I had to use my speed and make sure I stayed with her,” Henderson said. “I think that’s what we’ve been practicing all along. The first time we played them, that really worked out well for us, so I knew I needed to come into this game and bring that same momentum.”

Bueckers had 19 points on 8-for-19 shooting on Nov. 22 in UConn’s 73-57 loss to South Carolina.

With the imposing Aliyah Boston, who succeeded Bueckers as the Player of the Year award winner, and her friends patrolling the paint, getting to the basket was tough for the Huskies — unless they found a backdoor pass from Bueckers to a cutting teammate.

As if that wasn't enough, Bueckers also spent much of her night chasing around Henderson on the other end, as the Gamecocks senior went out on quite the high note with a career-high 26 points.

The Huskies lost to Arizona in the Final Four last year. Bueckers was denied the chance to play for a championship in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic that halted the Minnesota state high school tournament before Hopkins made it to the title game. Bueckers led the Royals to the 2019 title during her junior season, a few miles away at Williams Arena, but Hopkins lost in the 2018 championship at Target Center.

“Just being able to be here with my team and spend more time with each other, build more memories, and to do it at home was amazing,” Bueckers said. “Nobody in my position would be happy right now, so I’m obviously upset just with the way things ended. Super proud of this team for how far we’ve come and all the adversity we’ve dealt with and all we’ve overcome to get to this point. But at UConn, it’s national championship or nothing.”

___

More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, College Sports, AP Sports - Women's College Basketball
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Ex-police officer faces jury trial on Capitol riot charges
A trial starts this week for a former Virginia police officer charged with storming the U.S. Capitol with a fellow officer who has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors
12:17AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Jon Batiste tops Grammys; Silk Sonic soars, Rodrigo crowned
Jon Batiste won album of the year honors for “We Are” at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, giving him five trophies on a night that saw the ’70s funk of Silk Sonic take record of the year and song of the year and newcomer Olivia Rodrigo take three awards
12:14AM ( 21 minutes ago )
'Green steel' heating up in Sweden's frozen north
The steel-making industry is coming under increasing pressure to curb its environmental impact and contribute to the Paris climate accord, which aims to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius
12:12AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Bueckers can't do it all as UConn comes up short for title
The Connecticut Huskies had to lean on Paige Bueckers as hard as they could against South Carolina in the NCAA championship game
11:51PM ( 44 minutes ago )
Staley leads South Carolina over UConn for second NCAA title
Dawn Staley and South Carolina buttoned up on defense and won their second national championship, stifling UConn for a 64-49 victory that ended the Huskies’ undefeated streak in title games
11:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
Lowry has 16 points, 10 assists as Heat beat Raptors 114-109
Kyle Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists against his former team, Max Strus scored all of his 23 points in the second half, and the Miami Heat beat the Toronto Raptors 114-109
11:09PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
Kansas, North Carolina leaning on dynamic duos in title run
North Carolina has an effective inside/outside combo in Armando Bacot and Caleb Love
5:00PM ( 7 hours ago )
Thad Matta returning to Butler for 2nd stint as head coach
Thad Matta is returning to Butler, hired to coach the Bulldogs almost five years after he cited his health while stepping down at Ohio State
1:30PM ( 11 hours ago )
UNC gets best of Duke in epic 3rd meeting at Final Four
Caleb Love and North Carolina proved they could play their outside-shooting finesse style better than Duke could play bully ball
1:10AM ( 23 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
College baseball goes high-tech to send pitch calls to mound
A growing number of college baseball teams are moving away from the tradition of catchers using their fingers and hands for pitch signs
2:25PM ( 10 hours ago )
South Carolina and UConn meet for women's hoops championship
Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies have gone 11-0 in NCAA title games and will look to continue that success when they face South Carolina for the women's basketball title Sunday night
5:00PM ( 1 day ago )
Ginobili, Hardaway among 8 new Hall of Fame inductees
NBA stars Manu Ginobili and Tim Hardaway are among the 2022 class of Basketball Hall of Fame inductees
2:06PM ( 1 day ago )
College Sports
Parker hopes Title IX documentary serves as inspiration
Title IX has been a passionate subject for Candace Parker ever since she learned of its impact while doing a paper on it in the eighth grade
7:32PM ( 3 days ago )
South Carolina's Aliyah Boston wins AP player of the year
Aliyah Boston of South Carolina is The Associated Press women's basketball player of the year
6:35PM ( 3 days ago )
LSU's Kim Mulkey wins AP Coach of the Year for third time
Kim Mulkey is The Associated Press women's basketball Coach of the Year in her first season at LSU
6:18PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Sports - Women's College Basketball
Ex-police officer faces jury trial on Capitol riot charges
A trial starts this week for a former Virginia police officer charged with storming the U.S. Capitol with a fellow officer who has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors
12:17AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Jon Batiste tops Grammys; Silk Sonic soars, Rodrigo crowned
Jon Batiste won album of the year honors for “We Are” at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, giving him five trophies on a night that saw the ’70s funk of Silk Sonic take record of the year and song of the year and newcomer Olivia Rodrigo take three awards
12:14AM ( 21 minutes ago )
'Green steel' heating up in Sweden's frozen north
The steel-making industry is coming under increasing pressure to curb its environmental impact and contribute to the Paris climate accord, which aims to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius
12:12AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Senate panel to vote on Jackson nomination to Supreme Court
Democrats are launching a whirlwind week of votes and procedural maneuvers with the goal of confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court by Friday
12:11AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Ukraine accuses Russia of massacre, city strewn with bodies
Bodies with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture lay scattered in a city on the outskirts of Kyiv after Russian soldiers withdrew from the area
12:10AM ( 25 minutes ago )