GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (AP) — Paige Bueckers scored 22 points and Aubrey Griffin added 20 as No. 6 UConn beat Kansas 71-63 on Saturday at the Cayman Islands Classic.
Griffin grabbed a team-best eight rebounds and Nika Muhl had six assists for the Huskies (4-2).
A day after falling to No. 2 UCLA in their tournament opener, the Huskies allowed unranked Kansas to hang around until late in the game. The Jayhawks cut it to a four-point lead after S’Maya Nichols’ 3-pointer, but the Huskies responded by going on a 13-4 run and Griffin’s layup with 7:02 remaining gave UConn a 60-47 lead, their largest of the game.
The Jayhawks then cut it to 64-59 on Jackson’s layup with 1:44 remaining but Bueckers responded with a spinning layup to push the Huskies’ lead to six and that’s as close as Kansas would get.
“I think they pretty much gutted this one out, it wasn’t pretty, either,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “But when you’re struggling like we’re struggling right now, it’s just as easy to lose a game like this as it is to win it. So I’m really happy with the way we hung in there and some of the plays we made down the stretch.”
Taiyanna Jackson led Kansas (2-3) with 16 points and 12 rebounds for her third double-double of the season. Wyvette Mayberry and Nichols each scored 14.
Bueckers scored just two points on a pair of field goal attempts in the first half, but exploded for 20 after the halftime break.
“She plays aggressively and when she’s playing the way she played in the second half, obviously we’re a completely different team,” Auriemma said. “It’s going to be really nice to see when we get some more contributions to help her and she won’t have to work so hard and carry most of the load. I thought Aubrey tonight was fantastic. That’s the Aubrey that we’re gonna need every single night because we don’t have anybody else like her who can do what she does.”
Jayhawks’ leading scorer Holly Kersgieter was held to just five points on 0-for-3 shooting from the field.
Kansas: The Jayhawks came to the Cayman Islands to play a pair of teams ranked top 10 in the AP Poll in No. 9 Virginia Tech and No. 6 UConn, the first ranked opponents they’ve faced this season. The unranked Jayhawks lost to the Hokies by one point Friday night before falling to the Huskies by eight in their finale.
UConn: The Huskies were coming off a 78-67 loss to No. 2 UCLA on Friday night, their second loss of the season. They responded by shooting 26 for 57 (46%) from the floor.
Kansas plays Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday.
UConn plays No. 12 Texas on Dec. 3 in the Jimmy V Women’s Classic.
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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball