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Paige Bueckers Drops 28 as UConn Edges Baylor to Reach 13th Straight Final Four

Jenna CiccotelliAnalyst IIMarch 30, 2021

UConn guard Paige Bueckers, center, drives to the basket between Baylor defenders Queen Egbo (25) and DiJonai Carrington (21) during the first half of a college basketball game in the Elite Eight round of the women's NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Monday, March 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

For the 13th straight year, UConn is headed to the Final Four.

The top-seeded Huskies downed No. 2 Baylor, 69-67, on Monday night, improving to 28-1 behind 28 points from Paige Bueckers

For the Lady Bears (28-3), DiJonai Carrington had 22 points and seven rebounds, but her potential game-winning shot in heavy traffic fell short. 

Notable Performers

  • Paige Bueckers, UConn: 28 PTS, 3 REB, 3 STL
  • DiJonai Carrington, Baylor: 22 PTS, 7 REB
  • Christyn Williams, UConn: 20 PTS, 6 REB
  • NaLyssa Smith, Baylor: 14 PTS, 12 REB, 2 STL

   

UConn Overcomes Lengthy Droughts to Win 

The Huskies had an early lead that held until the final 3:56 of the half, but Baylor's defense—which posted the top defensive field-goal percentage in the NCAA for the fourth consecutive year at 32.2 percent—got the best of UConn for long periods that limited its dominance in the first half.

The Lady Bears held the Huskies scoreless for the final 3:03 of the half and took a 39-37 lead into the break.

What Baylor had on defense, UConn of course had on offense, led by standout freshman Paige Bueckers, the National Player of the Year. She led UConn with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the first half. 

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They went on another drought in the third quarter, heading into the final three minutes in a scoring absence that extended back more than five minutes. 

An injury to Baylor star DiDi Richards changed the tide at the end of the frame, paving the way for UConn to go on an 8-0 run to get within two heading into the final quarter and then extended it to 19-0 into the final frame to take the lead. 

Things looked dangerous yet again as the Huskies were limited for another three-minute stretch at the end, but they held on for the win. 

   

DiJonai Carrington's Fast Start Spoiled by DiDi Richards' Injury 

UConn got out to a fast start, but Baylor worked its way back at the end of the first quarter, going on a 10-0 run over a nearly three-minute span to get within two of the Huskies.

But Baylor finally broke through, taking its first lead of the game with 3:56 remaining in the half on a jumper by DiJonai Carrington, who starred on both sides of the ball in the first half. UConn quickly took the lead back, but the momentum was there for Baylor to head into the break up 39-37.

Carrington, who was named the Big 12's Sixth Player of the Year, averaged 13.8 points per game entering Monday. But she dropped 14 in the first half alone (5-of-10 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from the line) to lead all scorers. 

She also grabbed three rebounds and had two steals, tying Richards for a game high at the break. 

 

Richards, the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, suffered a hamstring injury with 2:37 to go in the third quarter, and her absence immediately changed the course of the game as UConn tied it early in the fourth quarter. 

She returned for some minutes in the fourth, but struggled to stop a major run that ultimately sent the Huskies to the win. 

 

What's Next? 

UConn's 13th consecutive Final Four appearance will come alongside the winner of Monday's game between No. 3 Arizona and No. 4 Indiana. 

Baylor could be back next year with ESPNW's No. 13 recruit, Maryam Dauda, joining the group in 2021.