Bridgeport, Conn. -- Even though 6-foot-7 Texas center Imani Boyette played only 9 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, and UCLA trounced Texas in free throw attempts -- 34 for UCLA by the end of the game, compared to 20 for Texas -- the second-seeded Longhorns managed to hang around and take the lead in the fourth quarter en route to a 72-64 win. Their reward? Connecticut.
With Boyette on the bench, the Bruins' Monique Billings found space to operate, to the tune 20 points. Without Boyette's huge presence in the lane, the Bruins' guards were able to penetrate the lane.
But Boyette couldn't be kept off the floor forever. Her presence in the fourth quarter, coupled with the Longhorns' own excellent guard play, lifted Texas to victory and their first trip to the Elite Eight since 2003.
Player of the game: Had things gone another way, it would have been difficult to argue against Billings. But it was Boyette who won the day, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. She was the difference down the stretch.
How it was won: When the horn sounded for the beginning of the fourth quarter, Texas took over with scrappy guard play. The Longhorns opened the quarter with a 10-0 run. Forcing UCLA turnovers at crucial moments and maintaining the pressure on the perimeter, the Texas defense kept the Longhorns in the game when other things weren't going their way.
Turning point: It sounds strange, but the Bruins' Jordin Canada elevated for a fade-away, turnaround jumper that swished through the net at the end of the third quarter. It was the kind of shot that sends a team to victory. So you'd think it would have given the momentum to UCLA, but it had the opposite effect. A six-point UCLA lead was erased quickly in the final period thanks to some defensive stops and big shots. Texas took the lead and never looked back, outscoring the Bruins 24-10 in the last period.
X factor: The defensive hustle of the Texas guards kept the Longhorns in the game at the important moments. Even though the Longhorns had more turnovers than the Bruins, it was when it mattered most that the Texas guards came up with big plays against the young Bruins. That made a huge difference down the stretch.
Stat of the day: The Bruins were 21-0 when leading at halftime before this game, so a 33-28 lead at the half seemed like a good omen. The Bruins still led, 54-48, at the end of the third. But after missing their final nine shots of the game, well, the Bruins finished the season 21-1 when leading at the half.
What's next: Top-seeded Connecticut awaits the Longhorns in Monday's Elite Eight. The teams infamously met last year in the Sweet 16, which ended in a 51-point blowout and Connecticut victory. Boyette's size, however, could give Connecticut fits if the senior can play well and stay on the court.