No. 3 seed UConn celebrates Auriemma's 70th birthday with 86-64 first-round win over Jackson State

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STORRS, Conn. (AP) — All-American Paige Bueckers and her teammates had a special gift for UConn coach Geno Auriemma on his 70th birthday — a 30th consecutive first-round win in the NCAA Tournament.

Bueckers scored 28 points, freshman Ashlynn Shade added 26 and the No. 3 seeded Huskies beat Jackson State 86-64 on Saturday.

“Happy birthday Grandpa,” Bueckers said at the post-game press conference, as her coach flicked water from his drinking cup in her direction.

Aaliyah Edwards, wearing a mask after missing two games with a broken nose, had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (30-5), who took control of the game early and led by as many as 28-points.

Ti'Ian Boler scored 25 points and Angel Jackson had 13 for 14th seeded Jackson State (26-7), which lost for the first time in 22 games.

The Tigers' Miya Crump opened the game with a jumper and Jackson State led briefly at 4-2.

But Bueckers sparked a 17-0 Husky run by scoring eight of UConn’s first 10 points. She gave Connecticut its first lead at 5-4 on an up-and-under layup and foul shot.

UConn led 22-8 after 10 minutes, and took its first 20-point lead at 39-19 on a 3-pointer from Bueckers, who also pulled down 11 rebounds and had seven assists in the game.

“Paige, when she starts off like that, it makes everybody feel a lot more confident," Auriemma said. "They can breath a little bit easier knowing that she's pretty much taken control of the game."

Boler’s 3-pointer from the right corner at the buzzer sent the teams into the half with UConn leading 49-28.

A 3-pointer from Nika Muhl as the third quarter expired put the Huskies up 72-50 and Connecticut cruised from there.

UConn shot 50% from the field and finished with nine 3-pointers, five of them from Shade.

“It was such a surreal moment to be out there," the freshman said of her first NCAA Tournament game. ”It was just really exciting."

The Huskies improved to 13-1 in games played on their coach's birthday.

BIG PICTURE

Jackson State: This was the Tigers' third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four years. They have never advanced past the first round, but coach Tomekia Reed said is was proud of how her team has represented historically black schools.

“I not only wanted to put out university on the map, I wanted to put HBCUs on the map,” she said. “We have such a special community that a lot of people overlook. We have a community that is not built on wins and losses, but is built on community and love.”

UConn: The Huskies have appeared in 35 straight NCAA Tournaments and are 31-2 in first-round games. They last lost an opening round contest in 1993, when they fell by three points to Louisville in Storrs. ... This is the 27th time the Huskies have won 30 games in a season.

BIRTHDAY SHIRTS

Bueckers waxed poetic about how much her coach means to her and her teammates in her post-game interview with the media, all the while wearing a shirt with a photo of the now-septuagenarian nodding off while sitting with her at an earlier media event.

“My man needed a nap,” she joked.

Each player had a personalized shirt to “honor” Auriemma. Guard Nika Muhl wore one with a photo of the old man from the movie “Up” holding balloons.

GOALTENDING

Jackson State’s Crump received a rare goaltending call when she elevated and knocked away a layup attempt from Bueckers after it hit the backboard in the first half.

UP NEXT

UConn will face No. 6 seed Syracuse on Monday night. The Orange beat Arizona 74-69, behind 32 points from Dyaisha Fair.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness