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It was the moment women’s college basketball fans had been waiting for. Actually, it was two moments they’ve waited years for.
Francesca Belibi finally dunked in a college game and Paige Bueckers’ Huskies career is officially underway. The two young stars headlined a weekend of action that included an improbable comeback by N.C. State.
Did Fran Belibi dunk? Yes.
Stanford sophomore Fran Belibi is a dunking sensation. It’s been her calling card since the age of 15, when she became the first Colorado high school girl to dunk in a game.
The 6-foot-1 forward does it during every collegiate pre-game warmup, but never in game action. Until Sunday. She put it down with 51 seconds until halftime following a steal on the opposite baseline.
Belibi is the eighth women’s player to dunk in a game. She is the first since Phoenix Mercury All-Star Brittney Griner, formerly of Baylor, had three in one game during the 2013 NCAA tournament.
“It was nice to be able to get one. I know that's been something that's been around my name for a while," she said, via gostanford.com. “It was cool to do it at Cal. Obviously we couldn't do it at Maples right now.”
Stanford (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) coach Tara VanDerveer, who tied Pat Summitt for most wins in NCAA Division I women’s basketball, won’t soon forget it.
“It was a great dunk. I was teasing her, I said, ‘I'll remember this night for the rest of my life and I'll remember the dunk,’” VanDerveer said, via the team site. “It's exciting. It gets our team going. It's really fun to see the players on our team be so excited for her.”
Stanford beat rival California, 83-38. Belibi had 14 points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes. Three teammates were also in double digits.
VanDerveer can pass Summitt on Tuesday night when the Cardinal play Pacific for the first time since 2013. Tip is 9 p.m. ET.
Paige Bueckers lights up in UConn debut
Speaking of star young talents making their mark on the college game, UConn freshman Paige Bueckers made her long-awaited debut on Saturday and did it in the starting lineup. She finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Only two other freshmen have had a similar line, and neither did it in the debut. After a postponed start to the season due to COVID-19 protocol, the third-ranked Huskies opened with a 79-23 win over UMass Lowell.
It’s going to be a fun four years in Storrs.
NC State avoids the upset with improbable comeback
The No. 4 ranked N.C. State trailed Boston College, 63-47, with 6:15 left on Sunday. It was a 16-point difference, giving the Eagles a 99.7 percent chance to win.
There’s always a chance.
The Wolfpack (6-0, 1-0 ACC) scored 26 of the final 30 points in those last minutes. Senior forward Kayla Jones scored nine consecutive over a nearly two-minute stretch until 2:32 to play. Her 3-pointer brought the Wolfpack within on, 67-66.
Jakia Brown-Turner made both free throws at the 1:25 mark to take the lead and boosted it to a three-point lead with a layup at :58. Free throws down the stretch kept it in the Wolfpack’s favor.
Jones finished with a career-high 25 points. Elissa Cunane posted her 19th career double-double with 23 points and 15 rebounds.
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