By:Mavin Chambers:|4.0 Sports Media
Albany, NY-This is the time of year UConn players looks forward to and competing. The Huskies are now healthy and playing on another level the last few weeks.
UConn with the help of Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier defeated Duke 72-59 in front of 10,658 at the Times Union Center. The win marked the 12th consecutive Elite Eight berth for the Huskies. Their lost in 2005 to Stanford was the last time there were not in a regional final.
The Huskies are 2-1 all-time against Duke in the NCAA Tournament and improve to 24-2 in the Sweet 16 all-time.
The Blue Devils held UConn scoreless for four minutes in the opening frame but trailed 20-14 the first quarter. Duke has only trailed at the half in six games this season, this was its largest halftime deficit as UConn led 40-20.
UC shot 42.1% (8-19) from the field and 37.5% (3-8) beyond the arc for the half. Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams kept the Dukies off balance with their in and out game. They both had 10 points a piece set the tone early for the Huskies before the break.
This was Duke’s 17th NCAA Regional apperance and its first since 2015. The Dukies finished the season 24-9.
“Just obviously a strong, tough game for us. I think that’s good. I hate the fact that we were out-rebounded. I think that’s really bad. And I think when that happens, good things can happen for the other team, which they did. I’m very proud of our team. I like our team a lot. I think we’ve handled a lot of adversity, and we’ve had some excellent leadership, and playing our best basketball in a lot of ways at this time of year, which has been great.” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Husky’s Napheesa Collier recorded her seventh double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Gabby Williams and Katie-Lou Samuelson both chipped in 15 points in the contest. UConn has had at least three in double figures in all six postseason games.
Duke guard Lexie Brown finished the season with 122 steals. She had seven today, which was one shy of tying for the 10th place on the ACC single-season steals list.
In the second half UConn used Duke transfer 6’6 Azura Stevens to establish their post play and her presence opened the perimeter for Samuelson and Nurse. The dynamic-duo consistently made shots from the outside which made the Dukies extend their perimeter defense, then the Huskies exploited them on the blocks.
The Huskies put together a series of runs that Duke couldn’t recover from. With 4:03 in regulation UConn was up by 22 points 68-46 and never looked back. It was a kind of a game that UConn needed and they used every facet and every inch of the court to win.
“I was telling the team before and after the game that each game that you play in the tournament, it gets progressivelly more difficult to do what you normally do. You have to be able to figure out how to win a game whichever way the game is being played. Today wasn’t one of those games where you just run up and down and shooy 25 threes and everything goes great. That’s part of what this tournament is all about. So I’m proud of these guys because we had to do a lot of things today to win the game, our defense was fabulous.” Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma said.