For the ninth year in a row, the Connecticut women’s basketball team is headed to the Final Four.
The top-seeded Huskies dumped second-seeded Texas 86-65 in the final of the Bridgeport, Conn., region to earn a berth in the national semifinals. Connecticut (36-0) will face Oregon State on Sunday in Indianapolis.
UConn earned its 73rd win in a row as it closes in on what would be a record fourth straight national title.
“I’ve always said this (Elite Eight) is the most difficult game to play in because after all this time, since September, you are that close to getting to the Final Four, and that is every kid’s dream,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said on ESPN. “When you get there, anything can happen, but it can’t happen unless you are there.
“(Our seniors) never cease to amaze me. The things that they’ve done their entire career here. What can you say to a group of players that have done this much, and every time the bell rings, they answer it.”
Morgan Tuck paced the Huskies with 22 points, while Breanna Stewart contributed 21 points and 13 rebounds. Moriah Jefferson compiled 11 points and nine assists, and Kia Nurse also scored 11 points.
Texas (31-5) got 19 points apiece from Ariel Atkins and Lashann Higgs. Brooke McCarty added 15 points.
The Longhorns trailed just 22-17 after the first quarter, but the Huskies padded the lead to 15 by halftime. Connecticut outscored Texas in each of the final two quarter as well.
Oregon State 60, Baylor 57
Sydney Wiese scored 18 points and hit three free throws in the final 34 seconds as the Ducks advanced to the Final Four for the first time with a victory over the Lady Bears in Dallas.
Second-seeded Oregon State (32-4) will face three-time defending national champion UConn in Sunday’s national semifinals in Indianapolis.
Jamie Weisner added 16 points for the Beavers and was named the regional MVP. Ruth Hamblin added 10 points and 12 rebounds for Oregon State, which joined Washington as the Pac-12’s second team to reach the Final Four.
Alexis Jones led Baylor (36-2) with 19 points. Kalani Brown scored 12 and Nina Davis added 11 points as the Lady Bears lost their third straight regional final.
Oregon State held a nine-point lead at halftime but gave most of it back during the third quarter. The Lady Bears were within one point three times, and the lead was cut to 48-47 when Niya Johnson made a layup with 10 seconds left in the third.
Baylor took a 51-50 lead on a layup by Davis with 6:54 left and tied the game at 53 a little over a minute later on a basket by Brown. The game was tied two more times in the final five minutes, and Jones’ jumper with 2:23 left forged a 57-57 deadlock.
The game stayed tied until Jones fouled Wiese with 34 seconds left. Wiese made the second free throw, and on the next possession, Jones missed a jumper with 15 seconds remaining.
After being fouled by Davis with 7.3 seconds left, Wiese made both free throws. Johnson missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with one second remaining.