2022 NCAA Women’s Tournament – UConn’s double overtime win over NC State is an instant classic

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — By the time the first overtime kicked off Monday night in the Bridgeport Regional Final of the 2022 NCAA Women’s Tournament, the game was already an instant classic.

Never mind that No. 1 seed NC State Wolfpack and second seed UConn would play 10 more minutes before the Huskies sealed a trip to the Final Four with a 91-87 victory in double overtime.

The two teams battled through the night, with UConn seeking its 14th straight trip to the national semifinals, with NC State chasing its first Final Four since 1998.

All of this added up to a spectacular match: two overtimes. Thirteen lead changes. Nine ties. The crowd at Total Mortgage Arena roared through the night as the teams traded baskets.

The details have made it the NCAA women’s tournament play thus far. Even though upsets dominated the first two rounds and two 10-seeded seeds made it to the Sweet 16, it was play that captured the embodiment of March Madness: two heavyweights battling for the opportunity to travel to Minneapolis and compete for a national championship.

It was a game where UConn was a four-point favorite over the region’s top seed in large part because this game was in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a stone’s throw from the UConn campus in Storrs. Vivid Seats fan predictions estimated that 84% of the crowd cheered UConn, and every time the crowd cheered after a key field goal or a forced turnover, the noise seemed to explode in your chest.

But it was also a game where no matter which side you were on, you could feel your heart beating in your ears and a lump land at the top of your throat. Because there were issues. UConn hadn’t missed a Final Four since 2009, and NC State hadn’t missed in 24 years. The Wolfpack had been eliminated in three straight Sweet 16s. Even as the upbeat music rumbled through the speakers, the crowd barely clapped. Because who could clap in rhythm for a moment like this?

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Jakia Brown-Turner drills 3 points with 0.8 seconds remaining to keep NC State alive.

It was a game where if you thought it was over, you were wrong. UConn took an early 10-point lead, but then NC State looked set to repeat its Sweet 16 victory over Notre Dame by rallying to take a late lead. Then UConn seemed to have the game in the bag…until NC State’s Jakia Brown-Turner hit a corner 3 with less than a second on the clock to send it into a second overtime.

It was a game where the big players stepped up in the big moments. UConn sophomore Paige Bueckers – the reigning National Player of the Year who missed 19 games with a knee injury and did not return until Feb. 25 – hit the opening basket of second overtime, a pull-up 3 points off the top of the key, and followed it up with a leaning pull-up just inside the arc of the next possession. And with the season on the line for NC State, trailing by five, Kai Crutchfield aka “Clutchfield” hit his second 3-pointer in overtime to pull NC State in half with 3:03 left in the game.

It was a game where newcomers seized the moment. UConn freshman Azzi Fudd scored 19 points but shone when the spotlight was at its peak. As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, Fudd was there to lend a hand when UConn needed it. And with the Huskies leading with less than a minute left in the game, Fudd drove to the right, sucked up the NC State defense and, as she fell back on her heels, fed the ball to second. year Aaliyah Edwards, who posed to extend UConn’s lead.

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Christyn Williams scores in the closing seconds of double overtime as UConn survives against NC State to reach its 14th straight Final Four.

It was a game where everyone put their bodies on the line. The two teams fought in the paint all night, where UConn scored 40 points and NC State had 44. The sounds of jerseys and skin and sweat sliding against the hardwood were the beats beneath the cacophony of cheers and whistles. When senior guard Evina Westbrook got stuck with an unfavorable game in the lane, she stretched her fingertips to swing the ball to a teammate. And whoever was on the block or trying to move into the lane was a human flipper. Beware of cutters.

It was a match everyone deserved to win. As the clock ticked to zero and Bueckers – a Minnesota native who finished with a game-high 27 points – shouted triumphantly to the crowd, the Wolfpack huddled on the sideline before walking off the field, four of them for presumably the last time in college, as their small fan section proudly held the Wolfpack sign aloft. Sporting their party caps and jerseys, the Huskies were crowned regional champions. The region’s standout player, Bueckers hit the dance known as Griddy as her teammates showered her in a shower of confetti.

But as the players hugged each other and their families, and the remaining crowd clamored for photos and autographs, one thing was clear.

It was an unforgettable game.

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