When it was announced that Minneapolis was hosting the 2022 NCAA Women's Final Four, the spotlight turned to Paige Bueckers. The Hopkins native was the star of UConn's powerhouse program and many believed that she would find a way to lead the Huskies to the Target Center.
That path appeared on Monday night in the Bridgeport Regional Final. Bueckers scored 27 points including 15 in overtime to help UConn defeat North Carolina State in a 91-87 double-overtime thriller to advance to the Final Four.
Bueckers got off to a slow start against the Wolfpack. The sophomore had just four points in the first half and shot 2-for-6 from the floor as the Huskies went into the half down 34-28.
But as the game wore on, Bueckers began to heat up. She made all six of her shots in the second half including a bucket with 2:14 to go in regulation to put UConn up 61-59. Although Elisa Cunane's lay-up with 1:03 to go eventually sent the game to overtime, Bueckers found another level.
The takeover began when Bueckers scored eight straight points for the Huskies to give them a 71-70 lead. After UConn traded buckets with the Wolfpack, Bueckers knocked down two free throws to put the Huskies up 77-74 with six seconds to go.
Jakia Brown-Turner's 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining sent the game into double overtime but Bueckers responded by scoring the first five points of the second OT. The Huskies held onto the lead for the remainder of the game and Christyn Williams's lay-up with six seconds to go sent UConn to its 14th straight Final Four and sent Bueckers back to Minnesota.
Bueckers will look to help UConn capture the semifinal beginning with Friday's semifinal against Stanford. If the Huskies win, they'll play for the national title on Apr. 3.