March Madness: UConn grinds out Sweet 16 win over Duke, sets up date with No. 1 USC

March Madness: UConn grinds out Sweet 16 win over Duke, sets up date with No. 1 USC

It wasn't pretty, but UConn is headed to the Elite Eight.

The No. 3 seed Huskies defeated No. 4 Duke 53-45 on Saturday in a game that could be best summarized as 25% fun and 75% rock fight. The score was only 23-13 at halftime and Duke didn't cross the 20-point mark until there was 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.

UConn was in cruise control for much of the game until the pace picked up in the fourth quarter. Duke rallied to cut what was once a 20-point lead lead to five with 1:56 remaining. That was as close as it could get.

The Blue Devils' struggles were best demonstrated with their 23 turnovers, 14 of which were recorded as UConn steals. It was an absolutely miserable night on offense for Duke, which also shot 11-of-39 before the fourth quarter.

It was a sloppy night — neither team made a 3-pointer until the final minute of the second quarter — but UConn definitely played like the better team. Paige Bueckers led the way with 24 points on 9-of-21 shooting, while Aaliyah Edwards was responsible for the team's earlier dominance before getting hit with her fourth foul midway through the third quarter.

That pair plus KK Arnold were responsible for all but five of UConn's points.

Like in its second-round win over Syracuse, UConn kept its rotation tight. Geno Auriemma didn't pull a single starter until Edwards picked up that fourth foul, even when Bueckers got her second early in the second quarter and Edwards got her third later in the frame. Ice Brady was the only bench player to see any minutes.

The Huskies will now advance to the Elite Eight, where All-American JuJu Watkins and top seed USC are awaiting. UConn will be playing for a return to the Final Four after coming up short last season, while the Trojans will be looking for their first trip to the final weekend since 1986.


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