Bridgeport, Conn. — After watching UConn’s NCAA Tournament dominance mostly from the bench for three seasons, Saniya Chong finally made her mark.
Chong scored 16 points and came up with big plays on both ends of the court, and the top-seeded Huskies beat UCLA 86-71 on Saturday to advance to the Bridgeport Regional final.
“I was looking at the stat sheet, that’s more points tonight than in maybe the three previous NCAA Tournaments combined,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I said before the conference tournament at Mohegan that there are two guys we need them to play at, or above, their level and Saniya’s one of them. Today the effort and play of Saniya was, I thought, the difference in the game.”
It was the 110th straight victory for the No. 1 Huskies, who will face 10th-seeded Oregon on Monday night. The Ducks pulled off another surprise, topping Maryland to advance to their first Elite Eight.
“They don’t know enough to be either intimidated or pressured or anything you’d associate with a team doing this for the first time,” Auriemma said of the Ducks. “They are having fun and enjoying the moment as they should. It’s really neat to see. … I said when Kelly Graves was hired that it won’t be long before they’re in the Final Four. I hope it’s not this early, but it won’t be long.”
Napheesa Collier had 27 points and 14 rebounds for UConn (35-0), which shot 55.6 percent (30 for 54) from the field.
Buoyed by the success of their Pac-12 partner, the fourth-seed Bruins jumped out a 9-2 lead over UConn before the Huskies scored 17 of the next 19 points. The seven-point deficit matched the Huskies’ largest this season.
The Huskies led by nine after one quarter and 17 at the half.
“We like to say that to play with us it’s a marathon not a sprint,” said Gabby Williams, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “They came out hard, aggressive, there was 37 minutes left to play.”
The victory tied Auriemma with Pat Summitt for most NCAA Tournament victories. The two Hall of Fame coaches have 112 tournament victories.
Jordin Canada had 20 points and 11 assists for UCLA (25-9).
“We had some mental lapses in the second quarter and that’s when they got on their run,” Canada said. “For a second, we looked defeated and that’s when they capitalized. I think it was our lack of focus.”
The Bruins cut into a 19-point deficit in the third quarter, making it 62-50 with seven straight points late in the period. Monique Billings sandwiched two baskets around a Kari Korver 3-pointer.
But Collier and Chong combined to score the next 11 points for UConn during an 11-4 burst to put the game away.
“This is definitely one I’ll remember,” Chong said. “At this time it’s all or nothing.”
Billings finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds for UCLA.
Oregon 77, Maryland 63: Sabrina Ionescu led five Oregon players in double figures with 21 points and the 10th-seeded Ducks continued their improbable run.
Fellow freshman Ruthy Hebard added 16 points for the Ducks (23-13), who beat second-seeded Duke in the second round and advance to the first regional final in program history.
Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough each had 16 points for Maryland, which finishes the season at 32-3.
The Maryland offense, which averages more than 90 points a game to lead the nation, was held to its lowest point total this season
Oregon coach Kelly Graves said before the game that his young team that starts three freshmen may not know it is not supposed to be winning. The Ducks became the second No. 10 seed to advance to a regional final, joining the 1991 Lamar team.
South Carolina 100, Quinnipiac 58: At Stockton, California, Kaela Davis, A’ja Wilson and top-seeded South Carolina overpowered NCAA Tournament surprise Quinnipiac from the opening tip, scoring the first 16 points and advancing to the Regional final.
Davis scored 28 with five 3-pointers, Wilson added 24 and South Carolina’s athleticism and smothering, swarming defense was just too much for Quinnipiac on the Sweet 16 stage. The Bobcats started out 0 for 10 and took more than seven minutes to score as they struggled to get shots off, let alone establish their typically prolific perimeter game.
South Carolina (30-4) won its eighth in a row, putting coach Dawn Staley’s team in the Elite Eight for the second time in three years.
The Bobcats (29-7) had won 12 straight games, beating fifth-seeded Marquette and No. 4 Miami for the first two NCAA Tournament wins in school history. The mid-major school became an upset darling as Connecticut’s other team, prompting UConn coach Geno Auriemma to wear a Quinnipiac T-shirt on Friday beneath his warm-up jacket in support of dear friend and coach Tricia Fabbri and her program.
Florida State 66, Oregon State 53: Ivey Slaughter started swiping to help Florida State discover its best defense from all angles, and the third-seeded Seminoles erased a daunting deficit.
Slick-handed Slaughter had a career-high nine steals, a school record in the NCAA Tournament. Florida State had 16 steals total, and Slaughter also contributed 11 points and eight rebounds. Slaughter made 1 of 2 free throws with 3:41 left before Sydney Wiese missed yet another 3-point try on the other end during a tough day from deep, and Slaughter scored again to help extend her special senior season.
ACC Player of the Year Shakayla Thomas notched her third straight double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Seminoles (28-6) used an 8-0 run to put the game away and will face top-seeded South Carolina (30-4) on Monday for a Final Four berth. The Gamecocks beat No. 12 seed Quinnipiac 100-58 earlier Saturday at Stockton Arena.
Wiese, the Beavers’ leading scorer, wound up with just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting and missed all 10 of her 3-point tries in her final collegiate game. Oregon State (31-5) missed a return trip to the Final Four.