Superstar Paige Bueckers leads UConn back to Final Four: 'I give all glory to God'

Led by star guard Paige Bueckers and her 28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals, the No. 3-seeded Connecticut women’s basketball team outlasted No. 1-seed USC, 80-73, Monday night to earn the program’s 23rd trip to the Final Four, a Division-I record.

The Huskies will now take on another No. 1 seed — Iowa and superstar Caitlin Clark — at the Final Four in Cleveland on Friday at 9 p.m. ET.

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“Just so much gratitude. I’m a living testimony,” Bueckers told ESPN on the court moments after the victory. “I give all glory to God. He works in mysterious ways.

“Last year, I was praying to be back at this stage. He sent me trials and tribulations, but it was to build my character. It was to test my faith to see if I was only a believer in the good times. I just kept on believing. I did all I could so God could do all I can’t.”

UConn treated its fanbase to 14 consecutive Final Fours from 2007-08 to 2021-22, a streak that included six national championships, but the Huskies’ unprecedented run of postseason success came to a halt last season. They bowed out to Ohio State in the Sweet 16 and had to watch from afar as LSU cut down the nets following the most-viewed women’s Final Four in history.

A major factor in UConn’s early exit last year was the absence of Bueckers, who tore her left ACL before the season. She redshirted, rehabbed and sought to trust God throughout the slow process of recovery

“It’s hard trying to make sense of it all now,” she wrote on Instagram following her injury, “but I can’t help but think that God is using me as a testimony as to how much you can overcome with Him by your side.”

Bueckers has certainly returned with a vengeance in 2023-24, playing in all 38 games and doing a little bit of everything to help her team win. She’s averaged 22.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game; she’s shooting 83.4% from the free-throw line, 41.8% from 3-point range and 53.4% overall.

Her steady presence in the backcourt and veteran leadership in the locker room kept UConn afloat during the early portion of this season’s schedule, when the Huskies lost a staggering five players for the season due to injury. They’ve overcome the setbacks, adjusted and are currently riding a 13-game winning streak. They went undefeated in the Big East, both in the regular season and in the conference tournament, and now they’re headed to the Final Four.

“The last couple years have been really challenging on my mental, of me finding joy outside of the game, finding joy in the process, finding joy in trials and tribulations,” Bueckers said in Monday’s postgame press conference. “I feel like I’ve had adversity thrown my way, but at the same time I’m super blessed. I got surgery for free, I got rehab for free. I’m surrounded by the best teammates, best coaching staff. So many people have helped me get to where I’m at today.

“… It’s been a very rewarding journey. I’m super, super grateful for it all. The tough times made me who I am. It’s built my faith. It’s built my appreciation for life and gratitude for anything that gets thrown my way.”


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Bueckers, who lists Proverbs 3:5-6 in her Instagram bio, has spoken often about her faith in God.

As a freshman in 2021, Bueckers helped the Huskies get to the 13th of those 14 consecutive Final Fours. In the postgame press conference, she deflected the praise to God.

“I know I wouldn’t be here without Him and just the confidence and experiences and opportunities He’s given me,” she said. “I’ve just tried to shine and sort of make Him famous and use my light that He’s given me to shine on Him.”

Now at long last, Bueckers is back on the biggest stage in the sport. She will seek to continue to honor God on and off the court as she seeks to lead UConn to its first national championship since 2015-16.

Undefeated and No. 1 overall seed South Carolina and No. 3-seed N.C. State are the two other teams joining the Huskies and Hawkeyes in Cleveland.

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