STORRS, Conn. — Freshman Azzi Fudd scored 16 points and hit two key free throws late as No. 2 seed UConn outfought No. 7 seed UCF 52-47 in a defensive slugfest Monday night to advance to an NCAA record 28th straight Sweet 16.
Christyn Williams added 12 points and Paige Bueckers had nine for the Huskies (27-5), who have not allowed an opponent to score more than 51 points in their last 10 games.
“It was a battle the whole game,” Williams said. “We just tried to throw the first punch and keep punching them.”
Diamond Battles scored 12 points, Brittney Smith added 11 and Tay Sanders had 10 for UCF (26-4), which saw its season end along with a 14-game winning streak.
These two former American Athletic Conference foes knew each other well and the Knights weren’t intimidated playing in front of a loud sold-out Connecticut crowd where the students were cheering baskets made in pregame warmups.
The Huskies led by just three points at halftime, but extended that to 12 points midway through the fourth quarter.
They led by 10 before Sanders 3-pointer from the left corner with 3 1/2 minutes remaining made it 48-41 and started the Knight’s final push.
UCF closed the gap to three points twice, the last time when Williams fouled Smith with 15.1 seconds left and the 6-foot-3 post hit her foul shots to cut the deficit to 50-47.
But Sanders fouled Fudd on the other end and the freshman calmly made her free throws to seal the win.
The game was extremely physical, with both teams pressing and playing lock-down defense. There were 45 fouls called, 24 on UCF.
The Knights held UConn to just 14 baskets on 48 shots (29.2%), but hit just 16 of their 46 (34.8%) UCF also struggled from the foul line, going just 10 of 20.
“This was a rather new experience for me, coach Geno Auriemma said. “It was what we thought it would be it was going to be really difficult and it was going to be ugly looking and it was.
“We could have easily let that game get away from us and we didn’t,” he said.
UCF: The Knights have had the most successful season in school history, winning the AAC regular season and tournament titles, earning their first Top 25 ranking, notching their first NCAA Tournament win and beating in-state rival Florida for the first time ever after 26 straight losses. Monday’s loss was the Knights first in 15 games.
UConn: UConn, which beat mercer 83-38 in the first round, improves to 18-3 as a No. 2 seed and 29-2 all-time in the second round, where they last lost in 1992. They fell in the first round a year later. The Huskies move on the Sweet 16, where they have not lost since falling to Stanford in 2005.
UConn will face Indiana in Bridgeport on Saturday.