Sunday's NCAA women: Bueckers helps UConn rout High Point 102-59 in opener

Doug Feinberg
Associated Press
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San Antonio —UConn did just fine without coach Geno Auriemma.

Paige Bueckers led the way with another stellar performance.

UConn forward Aaliyah Edwards (3) blocks High Point guard Jenson Edwards (12) as she tries to score during the second half.

Bueckers scored 24 points — the most by a UConn player in her first NCAA Tournament game — and the top-seeded Huskies routed High Point 102-59 in the first round Sunday.

Auriemma is recovering from the coronavirus and missed the opener. Associate head coach Chris Dailey filled in for the Hall of Famer, who is also going to miss the second-round game against Syracuse on Tuesday.

“We just want to continue to win for him so he can get out here with us,” Bueckers said. “It’s different, I could hear Coach in my ear yelling, I know he was yelling at the TV and yelling at me.”

Dailey is 11-0 filling in for Auriemma over their time together at UConn (25-1). The Huskies also were missing assistant coach Shea Ralph, who left San Antonio after one of her relatives contracted COVID-19.

It didn’t make much of a difference. The Huskies cruised behind their star freshman.

“It feels obviously really different not having Geno and Shea here,” Dailey said. “But we’re a program that ‘Hey next guy’s up’ and don’t worry about who’s not here. That goes the same with injuries. We don’t focus on that. … So far, so good.”

Bueckers, the third player ever to make first-team All-America as a freshman, had 13 points, five rebounds and three assists at the half as UConn led 53-29. She had one of the best debuts for storied UConn in the tourney, also finishing with nine rebounds, six assists and four steals. Her 24 points passed the previous mark by a freshman of 22 by Katie Lou Samuelson.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa added 22 points.

It wasn’t all good news for the Huskies. Freshman guard Nika Muhl stepped on the foot of Chyna McMichel, spraining her right ankle in the second quarter. She had to be helped off the court and her ankle was heavily wrapped.

She walked on crutches to the locker room at the half and was shown on TV with her head in her hands in front of the locker room. Muhl injured her left ankle in the Big East Tournament opener, but returned for the Huskies’ game the next night.

“Nika’s still getting looked at by our trainer,” Dailey said. “She’s going back to the hotel to get some treatment and we’ll know more in the morning.”

While there weren’t many highlights for the Panthers (22-7), who were playing in their first NCAA Tournament, they did take a 3-2 lead when Big South Player of the Year Skyler Curran hit a deep 3 from close to 10 feet behind the arc. UConn promptly answered with the next eight points and the rout was on.

Curran led the Panthers with 14 points. The team was 9 for 34 on 3s, many from way behind the arc.

“I think that was a little bit of improv from some of the players,” High Point coach Chelsea Banbury said. “Skyler can knock down the deep shot, she’s been doing it all season. Some of it was we were playing UConn. We were getting a little uncomfortable. That’s not necessarily the shots we want.”

UConn had a group hug before the game around teammate Saylor Poffenbarger. Sunday marked the 11th anniversary of her younger brother Fordham’s death in an ATV accident when he was 4. Poffenbarger, who was 6 at the time of his death, wears No. 4 at UConn in honor of him.

“Just to be able to be there for her and crowd around her and support her, give her what she needs, it just means everything,” freshman Aaliyah Edwards said.

Poffenbarger played two minutes and missed her one shot attempt.

More NCAA women

MERCADO REGION

N.C. State 79, North Carolina A&T 58: In San Marcos, Texas, Jada Boyd scored 15 of her 18 points in the second half and top-seeded North Carolina State overcame a slow start to beat 16th-seeded North Carolina.

N.C. State (21-2) was making its fourth straight tournament appearance and 26th overall, but earned a No. 1 seed for the first time. N.C. State will face the South Florida-Washington State winner.

Chanin Scott led NC A&T (14-3) with 23 points.

South Florida 57, Washington State 53: In Austin, Texas, Elena Tsineke scored 18 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:32 remaining, to help South Florida beat Washington State.

Tsineke’s driving shot, which came soon after a 3-pointer by Washington State’s Charlisse Leger-Walker, gave the eighth-seeded Bulls (19-3) a 54-53 lead.

Leger-Walker had 19 points for the ninth-seeded Cougars (12-12).

RIVER WALK REGION

Baylor 101, Jackson State 52: In San Antonio, Moon Ursin scored a career-high 24 points and second-seeded Baylor routed Jackson State.

All-American NaLyssa Smith added 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and had 10 rebounds for the Bears (26-2). They will face Virginia Tech on Tuesday.

Keshuna Luckett led the 15th-seeded Tigers (19-6) with 15 points.

Virginia Tech 70, Marquette 63: In San Marcos, Texas, Elizabeth Kitley had 23 points and seventh-seeded Virginia Tech built a big lead and held off 10th-seeded Marquette.

Kitley also had eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks for Virginia Tech (15-9).

Van Kleunen led Marquette (19-7) with 18 points.

Tennessee 87, Middle Tennessee 62: In Austin, Texas, Rennia Davis had 24 points and 14 rebounds and No. 3 seed Tennessee used a dominant second half to beat 14th-seeded Middle Tennessee.

Rae Burrell scored 22 points and Jordan Walker had nine points and 14 rebounds for Tennessee (17-7). The Vols outrebounded the Blue Raiders (17-8) 56-21.

Tennessee will face Michigan in the second round.

Anastasia Hayes scored 26 points for Middle Tennessee.

Kentucky 71, Idaho State 63: In San Antonio, Rhyne Howard and Chasity Patterson scored 14 points apiece and fourth-seeded Kentucky beat 13th-seeded Idaho State.

Blair Green added 10 points for the Wildcats (18-8). They will Iowa in the second round.

Diaba Konate led the Big Sky champion Bengals (22-4) with 16 points.

Syracuse 72, South Dakota State 55: In Austin, Texas, Emily Engstler scored 18 points and eighth-seeded Syracuse pulled away to beat ninth-seeded South Dakota State.

Engstler made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter for Syracuse (15-8).

Paiton Burckhard had 17 points for South Dakota State (21-4).

ALAMO REGION

Oklahoma State 84, Wake Forest 61: In San Antonio, Natasha Mack had 27 points and 15 rebounds in eighth-seeded Oklahoma State’s victory over ninth-seeded Wake Forest.

Mack was 13 of 22 from the field for Oklahoma State (19-8). Ja’Mee Asberry added 18 points with four 3-pointers.

Christina Morra led Wake Forest (12-13) with 18 points.

Oklahoma State will face Stanford.

Stanford 87, Utah Valley 44: In San Antonio, Kiana Williams scored 20 points while becoming Stanford’s career leader in 3-pointers and the top-seeded Cardinal overwhelmed Utah Valley.

Stanford never trailed after Williams, who made 6-of-11 from beyond the arc, hit a 3 for the first basket in the opening minute and tied the school mark of 295 held by Candice Wiggins. Playing in her hometown and with her parents in the stands, Williams set the record with her second 3 midway through the first quarter to put the Cardinal up 18-3.

Lacie Hull added 12 points for Pac-12 champion Stanford (26-2), the No. 1 overall seed for the first time since 1996. The Cardinals will face Oklahoma State in the second round.

Josie Williams had 18 points for Utah Valley (13-7).

HEMISFAIR REGION

South Carolina 79, Mercer 53: In San Antonio, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley got her 500th career victory when Aliyah Boston and the top-seeded Gamecocks beat Mercer.

Staley is 328-102 in 13 seasons at South Carolina, after going 172-80 in eight seasons at Temple. 

Boston had 20 points and 18 rebounds for South Carolina (23-4). Victaria Saxton also scored 20 points.

The Gamecocks were national champs in 2017, when the Final Four was last played in Texas. They finished 32-1 last season, spent the final 10 weeks at No. 1 and Staley was the AP coach of the year, but didn’t get a chance to win another title because the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the pandemic. 

The Gamecocks will play Oregon State in the second round.

Amoria Neal-Tysor had 15 points for Mercer (19-7).

Oregon State 83, Florida State 59: In San Antonio, Aleah Goodman had 24 points, five rebounds, five assists and zero turnovers, and eighth-seeded Oregon State beat ninth-seeded Florida State.

Taylor Jones added 18 points and eight rebounds for Oregon State (12-7).

Bianca Jackson had 17 points for Florida State (10-9).

West Virginia 77, Lehigh 53: In San Antonio, Kysre Gondrezick (Benton Harbor) scored 26 points and fourth-seeded West Virginia beat 13th-seeded Lehigh.

Kirsten Deans had 19 point, eight rebounds and five assists for West Virginia (22-6).

Emma Grothaus scored 14 points for Lehigh (11-5).

Georgia Tech 54, Stephen F. Austin 52, OT: In San Antonio, Lorela Cubaj recovered from a scary fall to score 14 points, including the go-ahead free throws in overtime, and fifth-seeded Georgia Tech overcame a 17-point halftime deficit to beat 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin.

The Yellow Jackets (16-8) will face the West Virginia-Lehigh winner.

Avery Brittingham had 16 points with 13 rebounds for the Ladyjacks (24-3).

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