Bueckers, No. 2 UConn hold off No. 23 South Florida
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Paige Bueckers had 21 points and seven assists to help No. 2 Connecticut hold off No. 23 South Florida 60-53 in Sunday's semifinals of the inaugural women's Battle 4 Atlantis.
Freshman Azzi Fudd added a season-high 18 points on six 3-pointers for the Huskies (3-0), who had to fight to the final minutes to maintain a perfect mark against the Bulls (3-2). UConn squandered a 13-point second-quarter lead and an eight-point margin midway through the third, then found itself trailing in the final seconds of that quarter after giving up an 11-0 run.
But Bueckers hit a contested turnaround 3-pointer from in front of the UConn bench to tie it at 45 at the end of the third. The Huskies got the ball to start the fourth, and Fudd followed with a straightaway 3 — essentially a six-point possession that took momentum back from the surging Bulls.
That was the start of a 14-2 burst, which included Bueckers scoring on a cut off a perfect feed from Olivia Nelson-Ododa in the post and Fudd adding another 3 to push the lead to 56-47 with 4:28 left.
Elena Tsineke scored 17 points to lead South Florida, which shot 37% but just 4 of 13 (31%) in the final quarter when the game hung in the balance. Bethy Mununga added 15 points and eight rebounds.
Connecticut improved to 33-0 all-time against South Florida going back to their time together in the Big East and American Athletic conferences, though this was the first of those meetings decided by fewer than 10 points.
USF: The Bulls had no trouble in its tournament opener, rolling past Syracuse 77-53 behind a double-double from Mununga. Coach Jose Fernandez had said afterward the team would need to manage Connecticut's runs, not letting a one or two baskets turn into a flurry of 12 or 14 unanswered points. For the most part, South Florida did that, most notably with its 11-0 run late in the third. The Bulls just didn't have enough down the stretch to claim the upset.
Connecticut: The Huskies won the first game in the inaugural tournament at the Atlantis resort, blowing the game open in the third quarter to beat Minnesota 88-58. This one was a tougher battle, with Bueckers and Fudd having to carry the offensive load in a slower-paced game for a team that just couldn't get loose in transition.
USF: The Bulls will face the loser between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 9 Oregon in Monday’s third-place game.
Connecticut: The Huskies will face the winner between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 9 Oregon in Monday's championship game.
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