SEATTLE — The most decorated streak in women’s college basketball has come to a close.
The UConn Huskies’ run of 14 consecutive Final Fours was halted in its tracks on Saturday afternoon with a 73-61 loss to No. 3 seed Ohio State in the Sweet 16 at Climate Pledge Arena.
UConn, the No. 2 seed, hadn’t been eliminated this early in the NCAA Tournament since 2005.
The Huskies committed 25 turnovers, which led to 23 points for the Buckeyes. They also shot just 7 of 15 at the free-throw line.
Cotie McMahon led Ohio State with 23 points and five rebounds before fouling out. Jacy Sheldon (17 points) and Taylor Thierry (11) were also in double figures.
Lou Lopez Sénéchal led UConn in scoring with 25 points. Azzi Fudd had 14 points and Dorka Juhasz added a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds along with four assists.
The Huskies jumped out to a 10-2 lead to force an early Ohio State timeout with 5:58 left in the first quarter. But that’s as much as they’d go up in the first half. The Buckeyes got their full-court press going and things turned disastrous for the Huskies as they committed a string of turnovers.
Aaliyah Edwards got called for her second foul and was subbed out with 3:57 left, at which point UConn led 12-6.
The Huskies went scoreless for over three minutes to end the quarter. They held a 17-15 lead after turning the ball over eight times in the opening frame.
UConn continued to struggle with the pressure from Ohio State to start the second quarter, turning the ball over four times in the first minute and a half.
The press gave the Huskies’ fits, but there was trouble once they crossed half court too. In one instance, Caroline Ducharme got double-teamed by defenders and lost control of the ball. Then Cotie McMahon scored a 3-pointer on the other end to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the day, up 18-17 with 8:49 left in the second.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma called timeout shortly after that and inserted Edwards and Lopez Senechal back into the game. But McMahon drained another triple out of the timeout and UConn then once again turned it over against the press.
Things quickly went from bad to worse when Lopez Sénéchal slipped and appeared to injure her right knee. She walked gingerly off the court with the team trainer and was looked at on the bench, before going back to the locker room and then getting on the exercise bike. She didn’t return in the first half. Edwards picked up her third foul shortly after and had to be taken out of the game as well.
Fudd scored a driving layup to end a 17-0 run for Ohio State and trim UConn’s deficit to 26-19 with 5:27 left. She had an impressive sequence with a block and a triple on the other end a few minutes later. But it wasn’t enough to combat the Huskies’ turnover woes or their struggles to defend down low with Edwards out.
UConn entered the halftime down 36-26. The Huskies turned the ball over 18 times in the first half, leading to 19 points for the Buckeyes. They also only had 10 made field goals and were outscored 20-10 in the paint.
Lopez Sénéchal was back on the court to start the second half and quickly scored a layup.
Edwards got back in the action too, scoring a driving layup with under eight minutes left to trim the deficit to eight. But she wouldn’t be for long, as she picked up her fourth foul on the offensive end shortly after and went to the bench with 6:20 left.
Less than a minute later, Lopez Sénéchal scored a tough and-one layup and made the shot at the line to trim UConn’s deficit to 42-35.
Lopez Sénéchal got another huge layup with under four minutes left in the third to get the Huskies within five points and force an Ohio State timeout. They had held the Buckeyes without a field goal for nearly four minutes, but then Taylor Mikesell scored a jumper out of the timeout and Jacy Sheldon drained a triple after missed free throws from Juhasz to get their team’s lead back up to double digits.
The Huskies kept leaving much-needed free points at the stripe while the Buckeyes made the most of their chances at the line. They trailed 55-44 entering the final frame.
Ohio State scored two 3-pointers and got another two points at the line in less than two minutes to open the fourth quarter. Auriemma called timeout with 8:09 left after Ricki Harris’ triple pushed the Huskies deficit to 16 points, down 62-46.
UConn managed to go on a 9-0 run to get within nine with four and a half minutes left. But then they gave up an and-one play at the other end. Still, they wouldn’t say die and Lopez Senechal got it back to nine with a 3-pointer less than a minute later.
But that’s as close as it would get as the Huskies saw a season filled with injuries and adversity end in heartbreaking fashion.