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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 head changes. Nine draws. The crowd at Total Mortgage Arena roared the night away 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 seeds made it to the Sweet 16, it was the game that captured the embodiment of March Madness: two heavyweights battling for the chance to surrender. in 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 that game was in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a stone’s throw from the UConn campus in Storrs. Vivid Seats’ Fan Forecast estimated that 84% of the crowd cheered UConn, and whenever the crowd cheered after a key field goal or forced turnaround, 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 been there for 24 years. The Wolfpack had been eliminated in three straight Sweet 16s. Even though the upbeat music was pumping through the speakers, the crowd was barely cheering. Because who could clap in time 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 a 10-point lead, but then NC State looked set to repeat its Sweet 16 win over Notre Dame by rallying to take a Then UConn seemed to have the game in the bag…until Jakia Brown-Turner of NC State hits a corner 3 with less than a second on the clock to send it into a second overtime.

It was a match where great players intervened in great 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 the second overtime, a 3-point pull-up from the top of the key, followed by a leaning pull-up just inside the arc of the next possession. And with the season on the line for NC State, late of five, Kai Crutchfield aka “Clutchfield” hit his second 3-pointer in overtime to bring NC State within two with 3:03 left in the game.

It was a game where newcomers seized the moment. UConn rookie Azzi Fudd scored 19 points but shone when the spotlight was at its peak. With the weather winding down in the fourth quarter, Fudd was there to kick a bucket 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, sent the ball to second. year Aaliyah Edwards, who landed it 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 below. 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 in triumph to the crowd, the Wolfpack cowered on the sidelines before walking off the field. short, four of them for presumably the last time in college, as their small section of fans proudly held the Wolfpack sign aloft. Sporting their party caps and shirts, the Huskies were crowned regional champions. The region’s most notable player, Bueckers hit the dance known as Griddy as her teammates bathed 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 match.

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