Monday was a huge night for fans of these things:
Minnesota high school basketball.
Dominant play by point guards.
Excellent first-year players.
Top teams in the nation.
Minnesota high school basketball fans who are thrilled by dominant play of point guards who are excellent first-year players for the top basketball teams in the nation.
The main event came first: Paige Bueckers, the former Hopkins High School superstar, scored the final 13 points of the game for her Connecticut team, taking over to force overtime and leading UConn to a 63-59 victory over South Carolina in a game between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the nation.
Playing with her father watching in person for the first time in her college career, Bueckers scored all of her team's point during the overtime, including a game-over three-pointer that hit off the neck of the rim, bounced higher than the top of the backboard and settled through the net.
"It bounced straight up, so I was like, 'Man, it's got to go in,'" she told reporters after the game. "It looked good. It felt good, but, yeah, I would say that was a really nice bounce."
Bueckers scored 31 points and became the first player in the storied history of UConn women's basketball to score at least 30 points in three straight games. Maya Moore didn't do that. Neither did Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Rebecca Lobo, Napheesa Collier or any of the other UConn graduates who have gone on to women's professional basketball stardom.
Bueckers, who also had six steals and five assists, hit two straight jumpers to tie the game at 54-54 with 46 seconds left in regulation.
"She's that player," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said afterward. "She's that player that comes along that people talk about — 'Hey did you see that kid from Connecticut?' She's that kid."
Hours before the game started, South Carolina and UConn had been announced as the new Nos 1 and 2 teams in the nation in the latest Associated Press women's college basketball poll. The Gamecocks were No. 1. But barring an upset before the end of the week, those positions will be reversed when next week's poll comes out.
About an hour after Bueckers concluded her run, undefeated and No. 1-ranked Gonzaga played at Brigham Young, which is unranked but having a solid season. In fact, BYU was the last team to defeat Gonzaga, a game that was played on Feb. 22, 2020 when the Zags were ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Suggs, the former Minnehaha Academy star, scored 24 points to lead the Zags to an 82-71 victory.
One of Suggs' teammates, Drew Timme, said "we just remembered last year. It left a bitter taste in our mouths" after scoring 20 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Gonzaga quickly put BYU in a big hole and the Cougars spent the rest of the first half trying to climb out of it. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 15-2 lead four minutes in after scoring seven points off four turnovers. Five players had a basket, and Suggs capped the opening burst with a pair of buckets.
That early tenacity on defense set an aggressive tone that Gonzaga kept up until the closing minutes.
After BYU pulled within six points later in the first half, Suggs and Timme combined to score five baskets over five consecutive possessions to fuel a 15-6 run. Timme capped the spurt with a jumper that gave the Bulldogs their largest lead of the first half at 34-19.
"They came out playing with tremendous pace," BYU coach Mark Pope said. "They're deceptively physical. They took it to us again in terms of the physicality of the game."
In the second half, Gonzaga used a 20-6 run to build a 72-50 advantage with 7:19 remaining. Gonzaga hit nine straight shots during that stretch while shutting down the Cougars. Suggs made four of them, including on three straight possessions.
"He was on it from the jump," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "He was back to playing at pace, like everyone was."
Here's how Suggs looked Monday night to a couple of Gonzaga partisans:
Through 14 games this season, Bueckers leads UConn with 21 points and 5.5 assists per game, and averaging five rebounds and 2.6 steals as well. At Gonzaga, Suggs is averaging 14.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game for his 19-0 team.
Game stories from The Associated Press were used in compiling this report.