BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Connecticut star Paige Bueckers saw one of the all-time great shots in NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament history — near the coda of one of the all-time great games in tournament history — go over her outstretched left arm and through her team’s basket, preventing her and the Huskies from their birthright every season: a trip to the Final Four. That shot, as breathtaking as it was, proved to be a temporary impediment, and in a game that evolved into “last team with the ball wins,” Bueckers made winning plays every time the ball touched her hands after regulation, earning her team one final trip away from their home state this season and, for Bueckers, a return trip back home.
Bueckers scored 27 points, 23 after halftime and 15 of those in overtime, in leading No. 2 seed Connecticut to a 91-87 double-overtime victory over top-seeded NC State in the Bridgeport Regional Final at Total Mortgage Arena on Monday night. Fellow backcourt mates Azzi Fudd and Christyn Williams combined for 40 points, and Williams’ layup with five seconds remaining in the second overtime putting the finishing touch on an instant classic.
The game will truly live in the annals of women’s college basketball, especially given the fact that it became the first multiple-overtime game in the Elite Eight stage in women’s tournament history. How it got to a second overtime was truly remarkable, as the Wolfpack’s Jakia Brown-Turner took a pass from near midcourt from teammate Raina Perez and, with Paige draped all over her on defense, drained a three-pointer from the right corner with 0.3 seconds showing on the clock to tie the score at 77.
There were four ties and six lead changes in the 10 minutes of overtime, with the fourth and final tie in that series coming on that Brown-Turner three, with video of that shot surely making the rounds in the thousands on social media. The shot also could have proven to be the coup de grâce in ending one of the remarkable streaks of dominance in the history of sport, as a Final Four that did not feature Connecticut last occurred three presidents ago, in 2007.
Paige Bueckers had other ideas, in the form of bucket after bucket when the Huskies needed her most.
MORE TO COME…
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Monday’s regional final in Bridgeport, 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 28 pictures in total.