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No. 2 UConn holds off No. 10 Buffalo to advance to Sweet 16

March 25, 2019

STORRS —UConn got to work early — really, really early.

In an instant, the No. 2 Huskies jumped out to a commanding double-digit lead in Sunday’s NCAA Tournament second-round game against No. 10 Buffalo. They held comfortable leads of 15-0, 18-2 and 23-4.

And still, they found themselves sweating late.

The Huskies held off a valiant fourth-quarter surge by Buffalo to punch their ticket to the regional for the 26th straight year. The final: UConn 84, Buffalo 72 at Gampel Pavilion.

It certainly was closer than it seemed. The Bulls (24-10) trailed by as many as 24 points late in the third quarter but climbed within nine with 4:14 remaining. Ultimately, though, the MAC champions ran out of steam.

Forward Napheesa Collier scored 27 points to go with 16 rebounds and eight assists. Christyn Williams added 17 points, as did Katie Lou Samuelson, who looked fully recovered from the back injury that kept her out earlier this month.

The 11-time national champions will play either No. 3 Maryland or No. 6 UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y.

Cierra Dillard, the nation’s second-leading scorer, finished with 29 points for Buffalo. Dillard limped off with an ankle injury with 7:54 left but returned shortly thereafter as the tension inside Gampel Pavilion rose.

The Bulls missed eight of their last nine shots from the field, fizzling their comeback hopes.

Autumn Jones scored 14 points for Buffalo while Summer Hemphill and Brittany Morrison had nine apiece.

The start was more encouraging than the finish for the Huskies. They jumped out to a 19-point lead in the first, but watched Buffalo close the quarter on a 9-0 run. The Huskies led 52-37 at halftime.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour