COLUMBUS, Ohio — UConn's record streak of reaching 14 straight Final Fours ended when third-seeded Ohio State beat the No. 2 seed Huskies 73-61 on Saturday in the Sweet 16 of the women's NCAA Tournament.
Cotie McMahon scored 23 points and the Buckeyes (28-7) forced UConn (31-6) into 25 turnovers, ending the Huskies' season before the national semifinals for the first time since 2008. UConn hadn't been eliminated this early since 2006.
The Buckeyes stopped their own Elite Eight drought. Ohio State hadn't made a regional final since 1993. The Buckeyes went on to lose in the title game that year.
They'll play the winner of top seed Virginia Tech and fourth-seeded Tennessee on Monday night in the Seattle 3 Region final with a trip to Dallas at stake.
Ohio State, which had to rally from a double-digit deficit in the first round against James Madison, used full-court pressure to disrupt the Huskies' offense.
“Our press is what we rely on, and sticking together and talking through it,” said Ohio State’s Jacy Sheldon, who had 17 points and went 10-for-10 from the foul line. “We knew UConn was going to be ready for us, so we knew we were going to have to stay consistent throughout the game.”
This has been the most trying year of UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s Hall of Fame career. UConn was beset by injuries and illnesses to both players and coaches, including a torn ACL that sidelined star Paige Bueckers all season. It got so bad the Huskies had to postpone a game when they didn’t have enough scholarship players. They also saw their unbelievable run of 30 years without consecutive losses come to an end.
“We picked the worst day to actually be doing the things that we’ve been struggling with all year long,” Auriemma said in a sideline interview during the game.
Lou Lopez Senechal scored 24 points for the Huskies, Azzi Fudd had 14, and Ohio State transfer Dorka Juhasz finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Huskies led 17-9 before Ohio State started scoring and turning UConn over with its full-court press. The Buckeyes scored the next 17 points, forcing 11 turnovers during that stretch, which spanned the first and second quarters. UConn had eight turnovers to start the second quarter, leaving Auriemma exasperated on the sideline.
McMahon was converting those turnovers into points for the Buckeyes as the freshman finished the half with 18 points — equaling the number of turnovers the Huskies had in the opening 20 minutes. Ohio State led 36-26 at the break.
This was only the sixth time UConn had trailed by double digits at the half in an NCAA Tournament game, according to ESPN. The Huskies lost all of those.
UConn did a better job of taking care of the ball in the second half and cut the deficit to 44-39 on Senechal’s layup with 3:53 left in the third quarter. Ohio State responded and still led by 10 after three quarters.
The Buckeyes didn't let the Huskies make any sort of run in the fourth quarter. UConn got within nine with 4:30 left, but McMahon had a three-point play to restore the double-digit lead. The Huskies never threatened after that.
Now the Huskies will start their offseason sooner than anytime in the past 17 years.
This was the first win for Ohio State over UConn in seven tries. The teams' last meeting was in the 2019-20 regular season. ... UConn was a paltry 7-for-15 from the foul line while Ohio State went 22-for-30. ... UConn’s previous season high for turnovers was 27 against Princeton. ... Aaliyah Edwards was in foul trouble all game for the Huskies. She picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter and sat most of the second half. Edwards finished with four points in 17 minutes.
THE HOUSE THAT SUE BUILT
The Seattle Regionals are being playing in Climate Pledge Arena — home of the Seattle Storm. Storm and UConn great Sue Bird was in the stands, sitting a few rows behind the scorers' table. She received a loud ovation from the crowd when she was shown midway through the first quarter on the videoboards.
Juhasz graduated from Ohio State two years ago and flourished there, earning all-Big Ten honors twice. She came to UConn last year looking for a new challenge and wanting to play for a team that could compete for national championships. There is a mutual respect between Juhasz and the Buckeyes' coaching staff.