This post was updated March 29 at 7:37 p.m.
ALBANY, N.Y. — In the last game of her collegiate career, Kennedy Burke walked off the court to hug coach Cori Close.
The senior guard was subbed out with 13 seconds remaining as No. 6 seed UCLA women’s basketball (22-13, 12-6 Pac-12) fell to No. 2 seed Connecticut (34-2, 16-0 AAC) 69-61 in the Sweet 16 on Friday night.
UCLA overcame a 12-point first half deficit and led by as many as five in the third period, but the Bruins couldn’t sustain it for one more quarter. UConn started the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run, eventually outscoring UCLA 20-11 in the period to seal the game.
“This team is very special,” Burke said. “Even though we didn’t start off (the season) well, we showed that we could fight and compete with any team.”
UCLA jumped out to an early 5-0 lead to start the game, but the Bruins went just 6-of-22 from the field in the first quarter.
Forward Nepheesa Collier went 5-of-7 and logged 10 first quarter points to help UConn take a 22-15 lead heading in the second period.
A 3-pointer by guard Christyn Williams gave UConn a 31-19 advantage midway through the second period, but the Bruins kept the Huskies scoreless for the rest of the quarter.
UCLA went into halftime with a 7-0 run, despite still shooting 26 percent from the field. Sophomore Michaela Onyenwere – who registered a career-high 30 points against Maryland in the second round – was held to just two points in the first half.
“We didn’t shoot the best in the first half,” Onyenwere said. “They were kind of getting whatever they wanted on offense, so we just stayed locked in on defense and stayed poise.”
UConn went scoreless in the last 5:15 of the second quarter. The Bruins held the Huskies to just nine points in the entire period – their lowest scoring period since Jan. 23. UConn, which did not score until the 8:08 mark in the third quarter, was only held to nine points or fewer twice this season.
In the third quarter, Burke left the game with what appeared to be knee injury at the 9:11 mark, but she checked in less than two minutes later and drained a 3 on next possession. Burke finished with a double-double logging 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The senior held guard Katie Lou Samuelson to zero points in the first half. Samuelson – who is averaging 18.5 on the season – was scoreless before going 1-of-2 from the free throw line after drawing a flagrant foul.
Senior guard Lajahna Drummer hit a 3 midway through the third frame and a mid-range jumper by Onyenwere gave UCLA a 41-39 advantage – its first lead since the 7:07 mark of the first quarter.
“We didn’t come to play close,” Close said. “We came to compete and win. And we believed it and fought for it.”
Another UCLA 3 from redshirt freshman guard Lindsey Corsaro gave the Bruins a 46-41 lead with 2:22 to go in the frame. UCLA shot just 1-of-8 from beyond the arc, but went 5-of-8 in the third period.
But the Bruins couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch and allowed the Huskies to go 8-of-12 in the final quarter.
“Their strength is their offensive execution,” Close said. “We had to stop switching. We went to something completely different where we had three people that were switching screens and two people that were chasing.”
Close said UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield hit two shots down the stretch that she thought were well defended that hurt UCLA’s chances for the upset.
“I thought we regrouped after their 6-0 run,” Close said. “I still had a good confidence about us, but I saw our demeanor change when Dangerfield hit a couple of those big shots late in the shot clock.”
UConn will face the winner of No. 1 seed Louisville and No. 4 seed Oregon State in the Elite Eight on Sunday at 9 a.m. in Albany, New York.