– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
ALBANY, N.Y. — It has been 13 years since the University of Connecticut played in an NCAA Tournament without having the No. 1 designation next to its name in the bracket. After Friday’s action in New York’s state capital, the Huskies will have the opportunity to take down the team that earned the distinction of having the No. 1 seed in Connecticut’s region in one of the most-anticipated match-ups of the season.
Both No. 2 Connecticut and top-seeded Louisville advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament by defeating teams from the Pac-12 in the Times Union Center on Friday to set up a rematch of the teams’ game in the Derby City on Jan. 31, a game in which the Cardinals handed UConn one of its two losses all season.
In the first game, the Huskies, who struggled in their win in the second-round in Storrs against Buffalo, had to overcome starting the fourth quarter behind before storming past UCLA 69-61. Senior forward Napheesa Collier led all scorers with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but it was junior guard Crystal Dangerfield who helped to put the Huskies in control of the game, scoring 11 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter to help launch the come-from-behind victory.
“We had to work really, really hard for everything we got,” said Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma. “There was a tremendous amount of pressure on our guys to make plays. Every pass was contested, every cut was contested. Every shot was difficult to come by. There were a lot of opportunities in the second half because we only played four-and-a-half players so to speak. We just found a way somehow when we really needed to make some shots.”
Katie Lou Samuelson, who has been slowed by a back injury that forced her to miss the entire American Athletic Conference Tournament, scored her first field goal of the game in the fourth to put an end to UConn’s game-changing fourth-quarter run.
Guard Japreece Dean led the Bruins with 16 points as UCLA, which shot 53 percent in the third quarter to overtake the Huskies going into the fourth, hit just three of their 14 shots from the field in the fourth.
The Cardinals used a dominant defensive performance in the middle two quarters to cruise to a 61-44 victory over the fourth-seeded Beavers in the nightcap. All-America guard Asia Durr scored 17 points to lead the Cardinals, while forward Sam Fuehring also chipped in with 17 points.
Louisville held Oregon State to just 13 total points in the middle two quarters as the Beavers shot a combined 6-for-25 while the Cardinals slowly continued to build their lead during the stretch. Guard Mikayla Pivec was the only player to score in double figures for Oregon State, as she had 17 points and nine rebounds.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s games, with all photos taken by ALOST senior photographer Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 36 pictures in total.