Freshman Paige Bueckers led the Huskies (25-1) with 24 points and nine rebounds. Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 22 points and Aaliyah Edwards had a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds).
UConn will face Syracuse in a second-round game Tuesday at a time to be determined.
High Point (22-7) was making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big South Tournament title. But after Sunday, the Panthers were 0-12 against ranked teams, and UConn’s associate head coach Chris Dailey is now 11-0 in place of Auriemma, who tested positive for COVID-19 on March 14 and had to stay home to quarantine for 10 days. The earliest he can return coach is March 24, after Tuesday’s game. UConn was down two coaches after Ralph went home March 17.
Keys to the game
Points in the paint and defense. UConn was able to take advantage of its size offensively and outscored High Point, whose tallest player was 6 feet 1, 20-2 in the first quarter and 32-4 on the way to a commanding 53-29 halftime lead. UConn outscored High Point in the paint, 62-18 for the game.
Despite losing Williams in the first quarter after she picked up her second foul, UConn’s defense managed to hold High Point’s high-scoring junior guard Skyler Curren, who was averaging 17.9 points before Sunday, to seven points in the first half on 3 for 12 shooting and 1 for 7 from the 3-point line. Curren ended the game with 14 points on 4 for 19 shooting and 2 for 13 from 3. Curren was ranked second in the country in 3-pointers made (91) and was shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line.
High Point cut the lead to 25-15 10 seconds into the second quarter, but Aaliyah Edwards hit a jumper and put back a Bueckers miss to jump start a 7-0 UConn run, and Huskies were able to maintain and extend their double-digit lead.
Play of the game
Bueckers ran into three defenders in the lane with a few seconds left in the first half and managed to thread the needle with a pass to Aubrey Griffin under the basket. Griffin was fouled and hit one of two free throws with 1 second left to give the Huskies a 53-29 lead going into halftime.
Player of the game
Bueckers, named an AP All-American and Naismith Trophy finalist this past week, stepped up after Muhl went out with her ankle injury and scored 11 of her 13 first-half points in the second quarter. Bueckers had 24 points on 9 for 13 shooting, with nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.
At one point in the second quarter, Bueckers scored six straight points in less than a minute — a pullup jumper with 3:58 left, a driving layup with 3:25 left and another pullup jumper with 2:59 left in the half to give UConn a 43-26 lead.
Highlight of the game
The poise demonstrated by the young UConn players especially when obstacles were thrown in their path — no head coach, foul trouble and missing Muhl due to an ankle injury — and still the Huskies managed to prevail.
Stat of the game
UConn shot 59.2 percent (42 for 71) and hit 15 of 20 free throws.
UConn will play Syracuse (15-8), a 72-55 winner over South Dakota State, Tuesday in a second-round game at a time to be determined.
Lori Riley can be reached at email@example.com.