SAN ANTONIO – Once Paige Bueckers and UConn got rolling, Syracuse couldn't stop them and now the Huskies are heading back to a familiar place — the Sweet 16.
Bueckers scored 16 of her 20 points in the first half and Aaliyah Edwards added 19 to help No. 1 seed UConn beat eighth-seeded Syracuse 83-47 on Tuesday night and advance to the regional semifinals of the women's NCAA Tournament for the 27th straight season.
“It’s funny I can still remember the very first one we went to. The Husky dog was carrying the suitcase,” UConn coach Chris Dailey said. “It says everything about our players and type of players we have.”
The Huskies were missing coach Geno Auriemma for the second straight game, who is recovering from COVID-19. Dailey filled in for the Hall of Fame coach, who celebrated his 67th birthday on Tuesday and should rejoin the team Wednesday.
“Happy birthday Coach, if you’re watching. Get your butt here tomorrow,” Bueckers said. “We’re excited to see you."
The UConn players sang “Happy Birthday” to Auriemma earlier Tuesday in a video posted on Twitter. They also gave him a present by again showing how well they could play without him.
The Huskies (26-1) got off to a slow start, a bit flummoxed by Syracuse's zone defense.
With the game tied 8-8, Christyn Williams banked in a deep 3-pointer as the shot clock expired and then Bueckers scored off a steal to give the Huskies a five-point lead. They led 19-14 after one quarter and slowly pulled away from the Orange (15-9) to a 15-point halftime lead.