One deep shot after another settled into the net and Kia Nurse could not contain herself.
She pumped a fist.She raised her arms. She unleashed a primal scream that pierced the sound of a screaming crowd at Gampel Pavilion.
When she converted her ninth three-pointer — a bank shot from the left side — Nurse ran back on defense with her arms flopping, almost mimicking wings. It made no sense. None of it made sense.
"It was just like, 'Are you kidding me? It's one of those days,'" Nurse said after UConn's 94-64 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. "I'll take it. But are you kidding me?"
We kid you not: Nurse, the kid who insists she's not a shooter, tied an NCAA Tournament record with nine three-pointers. She scored 29 points, 26 in the first half when UConn sprinted to a 28-point lead and left the No. 8 seed Orange gasping for life.
Syracuse has the highest-scoring backcourt in America. The talented duo, Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes, have talked of being the nation's best backcourt and their school has promoted them as such.
But as a raucous crowd at Gampel witnessed, neither was the best guard on the floor Monday. Nurse made 10 of 13 shots including 9 of 12 three-pointers. As she made shot after shot and helped contain the ballyhooed Syracuse guards, she was indispensable.
Gabby Williams and Katie Lou Samuelson added 23 points each as the Huskies were nearly flawless for three quarters. They left their campus arena with a ticket to their 24th consecutive Sweet 16 and will journey across the state to Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena for the regional semifinals Saturday.
The Huskies, winners of 109 consecutive games, are bidding for their 12th NCAA title and fifth in a row. If they stage more shows like Monday's game, another parade is in their future.
"Those first three quarters … we were about as good as we can be in a lot of the areas, in a lot of the areas that you need to be good in this time of year," coach Geno Auriemma said.
UConn shot 63.3 percent (33-for-53). They contested shots on defense and moved the ball on offense, finding open shots.
Nurse was often left to roam the perimeter. As the third quarter came to an end, she was set to shoot a three-pointer from in front of the UConn bench.
Instead, she tossed a pass to Napheesa Collier in the paint. Collier (17 points) dropped a layup and the buzzer sounded, ending the quarter with UConn leading ,86-51.
It was textbook UConn basketball — unselfish and sound, finding the open teammate for a high-percentage shot. It was also UConn's 30th assist on its 31st basket.
Auriemma raised his fists and dropped his head after the basket. "They had me shaking my head a couple times," he said.
Nurse has been part of the past two titles as a starter. As UConn's most seasoned player entering the season, she figured to play a prominent role for a young team.
After struggling early in the season, she steadily evolved into a reliable player and rarely the team's go-to score.
Yet as the games become more meaningful, Nurse is emerging as a force.
Coming back from an ankle injury that sidelined her for four games to end the regular season, Nurse is finding her offensive game. She had 24 points and was 6-for-7 on three-pointers in a win against Albany in the first round.
Against Syracuse, Nurse was unstoppable.
Meanwhile, Peterson (25 points) and Sykes (15) were unable to keep their team in the game. The challenge of going toe-to-toe with the Orange backcourt seemed to fuel the Huskies.
"It allows you to play with a bit of a chip on your shoulder," Nurse said. "And at the same time, for us, we like to prove it with the way that we play. Today, it wasn't a one-person show where one person had to shut down Peterson or Sykes. It was a team defensive effort."
Nurse's ninth three-pointer came in the third quarter and tied an NCAA Tournament record for three-pointers in a game, matching Purdue's Courtney Moses (2012). It came on a bank shot, and her reaction was memorable.
When Samuelson hit 10 three-pointers in 10 attempts in the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship game two weeks ago, she followed one of her baskets with a shrug reminiscent of Michael Jordan's two-handed shrug in 1992. Samuelson's reaction became an internet meme.
Nurse's post-shot reaction? She described it as the Canadian version of Samuelson's shrug.
What did Auriemma love most about Nurse's performance? Like her teammates, she was so good in all facets. Williams, the team's post player, helped bring the ball up court. Samuelson, Collier and Saniya Chong (seven assists) moved the ball all over the court. Crystal Dangerfield had five assists in 23 minutes off the bench.
And Nurse had six assists while playing with energy on defense.
"People think when you shoot the ball well, you play well," Auriemma said. "And Kia shot the ball better than well. She shot it amazingly well. But she played really well, and that's even more important."