UConn pulls away from USC in second half, advances to Final Four

Apr 1, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; UConn Huskies guard Paige Bueckers (5) drives to the basket during the first half against USC Trojans guard Kayla Williams (4) and center Clarice Akunwafo (34)in the finals of the Portland Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

PORTLAND, Ore. — UConn broke open a tie game with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter and never looked back en route to an 80-73 victory over Southern California on Monday night in the Portland 3 Region final.

There was simply too much Paige Bueckers for the top-seeded Trojans (29-6) to deal with. Bueckers collected 28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals in a brilliant Elite Eight performance. She was named the Portland 3 Region’s Most Outstanding Player.

Aaliyah Edwards added 24 points and six rebounds for the third-seeded Huskies (33-5), who extended their winning streak to 13 games and will face No. 1 Iowa in the Final Four on Friday in Cleveland.

JuJu Watkins went for 29 points and 10 rebounds and McKenzie Forbes added 24 points for Southern California.

UConn connected on 28 of 58 shots from the field (48.3 percent), including 7 of 15 from 3-point range. The Trojans made only 23 of 70 attempts overall (32.9 percent) and were 9-for-29 from beyond the arc.

The Huskies came roaring out of the gates in the third quarter to take a 41-33 advantage. Ashlynn Shade hit a 3-pointer, and when Bueckers scored on a steal and layup, UConn’s edge was 52-40 with 4:14 left in the period.

Watkins answered with a three-point play, helping Southern California score 11 of the final 14 points of the frame to go into the fourth trailing by just four, 55-51.

Forbes canned a trey to tie things at 59-all with 7:32 left in the game, but the Trojans were never able to take a lead.

Southern California was within one, 65-64, following a Watkins layup with 4:38 remaining, but the Huskies proceeded to rattle off a decisive 11-0 run to go up 76-64 with 1:25 to go.

UConn led by at least five the rest of the way.

Bueckers scored 15 points before the break as the Huskies rallied from an early nine-point deficit to go into intermission tied at 33.

Forbes ended a 9-0 UConn spurt with a jumper to give Southern California a 17-15 advantage that it took into the second quarter.

–Kerry Eggers, Field Level Media

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