Women's NCAA tournament - Paige Bueckers leads UConn past USC and back to the Final Four

Ros Gold-Onwude and Isis Young discuss how the Huskies’ superstar outdueled JuJu Watkins and USC to lead UConn to the Final Four for the 23rd time in program history.

Video Transcript


ROS GOLD-ONWUDE: Number three, UConn downs the one-seed USC to advance to the Final Four with an 80-73 victory. Now we knew this game had a lot of star power coming into it, with Paige Bueckers for UConn and JuJu Watkins for USC, and they both stepped up. JuJu had 29 points and 10 rebounds. And Paige Bueckers had 28 points and 10 rebounds-- not to mention six assists in the game.

What impresses you about all the ways and all the things that Paige Bueckers brings to the table for UConn?

ISIS YOUNG: Yeah. First I would just say the different ways in which she scores the basketball efficiently, like not too many dribbles, never over-dribbling, perfect on her catch-and-shoot, perfect footwork on her mid-range game. I thought she made a very clutch floater when she got to the lane, tucked the ball, and then left it for the teardrop towards the end of that game. That really kind of felt like it sealed the deal. Just so impressed with her leadership also and bringing others with her.

But I'm going to say I'm most impressed by her defensive effort in the tournament. Paige Bueckers is the one star I feel like out of all the superstars that we talk about that is committed to playing defense, that will guard the other team's best guard. You cannot say that of all the stars we talk about. But she does. Down the stretch, in clutch moments.

ROS GOLD-ONWUDE: Not to mention, you just feel happy for Paige after all the injuries she's had to overcome. It absolutely stood out to me how she-- she was on JuJu Watkins down the stretch defensively. But I actually thought JuJu also can defend. Maybe not as well as Paige has, or in as big a way, but JuJu plays both ends of the court too.

And as we look at her-- she's got USC back to The Elite Eight for the first time in 30 years. She's the National Freshman of the Year. Just how do you reflect on JuJu Watkins' overall freshman season?

ISIS YOUNG: Oh man, it was stellar. It was remarkable. It was historic, honestly. She edged her name in history as one of the best freshman seasons to see. I believe she also broke the scoring record for freshmen in a single season. I just-- thoroughly impressed with how she carried USC, like she carried them to be a one-seed. Still used her teammates, still handled the stardom well. And it's just a kid in a local hometown that is just fighting with pride. Really just excited to see how she continues to grow her career.

And man, like, thank god she's back. If we were losing JuJu, like, I don't know what I would do. I need more and more time with her. And thankfully we've got a ton of more time cause this is only her freshman year.

ROS GOLD-ONWUDE: Yeah. Yeah. The future is bright for women's basketball, for USC basketball. But back to UConn, I mean, how crazy is it that UConn is now heading back to the Final Four, essentially playing about six players?

ISIS YOUNG: Tremendously crazy, Ross. Honestly, the six players-- but even in that, two of them that play the majority of the time, and Ashlynn Shade and KK Arnold are freshmen. It's just impressive what, honestly, Geno Auriemma has been able to do. I feel like we take from all of this that all the years in which UConn was a dynasty, and had the best teams, and didn't lose for seasons upon seasons, it was always because they had the best players, clearly.

Even in this tournament right now, it's clear that they don't have the best players, right? They have a couple of stars, and the main one in Paige Bueckers. But we're seeing Geno and his coaching ability really show off in this tournament with time and clock management, with roster management, with trusting players to play with four fouls. And the discipline that he has built into his Huskies team-- I'm actually really impressed with Coach Auriemma and what he's been able to do with his short roster. A credit to him.

ROS GOLD-ONWUDE: I've said that time and time again through this tournament run. Is Geno even getting enough flowers for the coaching job that he's done? Well, he and his team are advancing to the Final Four. UConn does it for the 23rd time in program history. They're going to head to Cleveland to play Iowa in the Final Four.