March Madness: Paige Bueckers leads UConn to win vs. Jackson State in long-awaited NCAA tournament return

UConn guard Paige Bueckers (5) flexes after making a basket while fouled in the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Jackson State in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 23, 2024, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Paige Bueckers waited two years for UConn’s matchup with Jackson State on her home court Saturday. It was the 22-year-old’s first appearance in the women’s NCAA tournament in 720 days, and she didn’t miss a beat.

She was the first player to score for UConn with a quick jumper, which she followed up with a highlight steal and layup three minutes later.

The senior went on to score 28 points in the long awaited return, aiding the Huskies to a 86-61 win. Bueckers win impactful in every area of the box score, adding 11 rebounds, seven assists, three steal and a block to her final stat line.

She was one of three Huskies to score in double digits. Freshman guard Ashlyn Shade had 26 points, while senior forward Aaliyah Edwards added 20 and 10 rebounds.

The win kept the Huskies winning streak alive, as they haven’t lost in the first round since a 1993 loss to No. 11 Louisville. Bueckers is now the fourth UConn player in the last 25 years to have multiple career NCAA Tournament games with more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, per ESPN.

After missing the entire 2022-23 season with a torn ACL, Bueckers has been at the top of her game this year. She averaged a career-high 21.3 points per game en route to being named an AP First Team All-American.

Saturday’s performance marked her 24th 20-point game this season, an accolade she notched in the third quarter. By the end of the first half, Bueckers and Edwards had 33 points between them, more than Jackson State’s 28 points between the first two quarters.

This story will be updated.

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