No. 2 Connecticut outlasted No. 7 Central Florida at home Monday for a 52-47 win in the Bridgeport Region. In a game that figured to be a defensive struggle and played true to that form, freshman guard and former St. John’s High star Azzi Fudd missed nine of 13 shots but led all scorers with 16 points for U-Conn.
Fudd hit all four of her free throw attempts, including a pair that all but sealed the win in the final seconds, and Connecticut’s relative effectiveness in that regard as a team may have spelled the difference on Monday. The Huskies went 18 of 23 from the stripe, whereas the Knights hit just 10 of 20.
With her team down three with 23 seconds left, UCF’s Brittney Smith missed a free throw and then double-clutched on her second attempt as the Knights were called for a lane violation. That sequence came after U-Conn. blew most of a 12-point lead it had built with five minutes to play.
American Athletic Conference player of the year Diamond Battles led her squad with 12 points, and Smith came off the bench to chip in with 11. Senior guard Christyn Williams scored 12 for the Huskies. In her seventh game back from a knee injury that cost her much of the regular season, Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers played 32 minutes and scored nine points on 4-of-9 shooting.
The victory was a record 28th straight for the Huskies in the second round of the NCAA tournament. They haven’t missed out on a Sweet 16 berth since 1992.
UCF, which went 0-13 against U-Conn. while the latter program was in the AAC from 2013 to 2020, won its first tournament game on Saturday in an in-state showdown with Florida. The Knights came into Monday’s game leading the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 47.6 points a game. Connecticut ranked 10th at 53.6 points allowed.
The Huskies will square off next with No. 3 Indiana.