Mighty UConn too much for Jackson State in NCAA Women’s Tournament

Published 7:35 pm Saturday, March 23, 2024

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — All-American Paige Bueckers and her teammates had a special gift for Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma on his 70th birthday — a 30th consecutive first-round win in the NCAA Tournament.

Bueckers scored 28 points, freshman Ashlynn Shade added 26, and the No. 3-seeded Huskies beat Jackson State 86-64 on Saturday.

“Happy birthday Grandpa,” Bueckers said at the post-game press conference, as her coach flicked water from his drinking cup in her direction.

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Aaliyah Edwards, wearing a mask after missing two games with a broken nose, had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (30-5), who took control of the game early and led by as many as 28-points.

Ti’Ian Boler scored 25 points and Angel Jackson had 13 for 14th seeded Jackson State (26-7), which lost for the first time in 22 games.

This was the Tigers’ third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four years. They have never advanced past the first round, but coach Tomekia Reed said she is proud of how her team has represented historically black schools.

“I not only wanted to put out university on the map, I wanted to put HBCUs on the map,” Reed said. “We have such a special community that a lot of people overlook. We have a community that is not built on wins and losses, but is built on community and love.”

The Tigers’ Miya Crump opened the game with a jumper and Jackson State led briefly at 4-2.

But Bueckers sparked a 17-0 Husky run by scoring eight of UConn’s first 10 points. She gave Connecticut its first lead at 5-4 on an up-and-under layup and foul shot.

UConn led 22-8 after 10 minutes. It took its first 20-point lead at 39-19 on a 3-pointer from Bueckers, who also pulled down 11 rebounds and had seven assists in the game.

“Paige, when she starts off like that, it makes everybody feel a lot more confident,” Auriemma said. “They can breath a little bit easier knowing that she’s pretty much taken control of the game.”

Boler’s 3-pointer from the right corner at the buzzer sent the teams into the half with UConn leading 49-28.

A 3-pointer from Nika Muhl as the third quarter expired put the Huskies up 72-50 and Connecticut cruised from there.

UConn shot 50 percent from the field and finished with nine 3-pointers, five of them from Shade.

“It was such a surreal moment to be out there,” the freshman said of her first NCAA Tournament game. ”It was just really exciting.”