STORRS, Conn. — With the shot clock about to expire and her team ahead by a single point in overtime, Paige Bueckers threw up a long 3-pointer that hit the back of the rim and bounced high into the air.
There was no doubt in Bueckers’ mind that the ball would come down through the net.
UConn’s freshman star scored 31 points, including her team’s final 13, to lead the No. 2 Huskies to a 63-59 overtime victory Monday over top-ranked South Carolina.
Bueckers scored all of the Huskies’ nine points in overtime, including that improbable 3-pointer with just over 10 seconds left. There were 13 seconds on the clock when it left her hand.
“It bounced straight up, so I was like, `Man, it’s got to go in,”‘ she said. “It looked good. It felt good, but, yeah, I would say that was a really nice bounce.”
The Gamecocks’ Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson missed 3-pointers in the final seconds.
The thriller came just hours after the Gamecocks and Huskies earned the top two spots in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll.
Aliyah Boston had 17 points and 15 rebounds for South Carolina (15-2), which overcame a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
A layup by Aubrey Griffin had given the Huskies (14-1) a 50-43 lead with just over 8 minutes left, before South Carolina turned up the defense and went on an 11-0 run.
Victaria Saxton’s layup over Olivia Nelson-Ododa gave the Gamecocks a 52-50 lead, and Boston’s jumper extended that to 54-50 with just under 2 1/2 minutes to play.
But Bueckers, who also had six steals and five assists, hit two straight jumpers to tie the game at 54 with 46 seconds left in regulation.
“She’s that player,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She’s that player that comes along that people talk about – `Hey did you see that kid from Connecticut?’ She’s that kid.”
Henderson missed a fall-away jumper with 4 seconds left and the Gamecocks missed three chances to tip-in a game winner.
The loss ended a 12-game winning streak for South Carolina.
“We’ll learn from it,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “I told our players that everything we want is still in front of us.”
This was the first overtime win for the Huskies since December of 2004, when they needed extra time to beat South Florida. They had lost seven straight overtime games since then.
UConn missed its first five shots, made three of its first 20 and still trailed just 14-10 after a quarter. The Huskies shot just under 40% for the game, but held South Carolina to 37%. UConn scored 19 points off of 21 South Carolina turnovers.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have faced eight ranked opponents this season, with their only other loss coming on Dec. 3 against North Carolina State. The program lost the first eight meetings with the Huskies before blowing out UConn last year, 70-52,at home.
UConn: Bueckers has 142 points over her last five games and 93 over her last three, scoring 30 or better in each of those.
“It’s been a long time since one player has had to carry a team as much as she’s had to in some of these games,” Auriemma said.
Staley, who took her first head coaching job at Temple, honored the late Owls men’s coach John Chaney by dressing in a sweater and loose tie, the signature look of her former mentor. Chaney died on Jan. 29 at 89. A memorial service for him was held Monday in Philadelphia.