PORTLAND, Ore. -- In a matchup that felt NCAA tournament-worthy, the No. 3 UConn Huskies women's basketball team beat the No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes 86-79 to win the Phil Knight Legacy tournament championship Sunday.
The Huskies are undefeated five games into the season with three victories over fellow top-10 teams. This without All-American guard Paige Bueckers, who is out all season with a knee injury.
"You don't know if you have it until you're put in that situation," coach Geno Auriemma said of the Huskies' resolve. "You don't know how tough you are. You can talk about it all you want. At some point, you're going to find out.
"We just beat [some] really good teams in the span of 12-13 days. We have another one this Sunday [Notre Dame] with a conference game in between. You have to be able to bounce back, quarter-to-quarter, possession-to-possession, game-to-game. That's what prepares you for what happens in March."
Sunday's game pitted two of the nation's top players, both guards: Iowa's Caitlin Clark, who was more dominant in the first half, and UConn's Azzi Fudd, who was more dominant in the second half. Clark finished with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, the junior's 35th career game with at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. She had 17 of her points in the first half, but didn't score in the third quarter, which is when Fudd took over.
Fudd had just two points on 1-of-8 shooting in the first half, and then had 16 points in the third quarter alone, going 7-of-7 from the field. The sophomore finished with 24 points. Forward Aaliyah Edwards had one of her best games for the Huskies, with 20 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. She also held Iowa standout post player Monika Czinano to eight points, 10 under her average.
With Bueckers out, even more responsibility rests on junior guard Nika Muhl, who had 13 assists Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, she is the only UConn player since 1999 to have three consecutive games of 10 assists or more -- an era that includes all-time great Sue Bird's Huskies career.
The Huskies and Hawkeyes last met in the 2021 NCAA Sweet 16, which UConn won by 20 points. Sunday's game was much closer, and both teams take away positives from it.
"I think our transition offense was tremendous," Clark said. "They adjusted well in the second half and really had people back, but they also made a lot more shots."
The Hawkeyes, 5-2, prepare for another ranked foe on Thursday as NC State visits in one of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
UConn now has defeated top-10 teams Texas, NC State and Iowa. UConn is the fourth women's team since the 1999-2000 season to face three top-10 teams in the first five games of the season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The other three teams went 1-8 in those games.
The Huskies face Big East foe Providence on Friday, then travel for their annual rivalry game with Notre Dame at 3 p.m. ET next Sunday on ABC.
"This team responds," Auriemma said. "I knew we were tired and it was a struggle, and [against] a team that just keeps punching you. And Azzi, she punched back. Being tired and facing all the attention she faces, she's really been remarkable since Paige got hurt."
In Sunday's later game, the Phil Knight Invitational final, the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels rallied from 17 points down to beat the No. 5 Iowa State Cyclones 73-64 for the title. Tournament MVP Deja Kelly led the Tar Heels with 29 points. Both games were played at Moda Center, which earlier in the week was awarded the 2030 women's Final Four, the first time that event will be held in Oregon. Moda Center also will host an NCAA women's regional in 2024.