By the time the first overtime started, the game was already a classic.
The top-seeded NC State Wolfpack and second-seeded Connecticut were playing for a spot in the Final Four when they played 10 more minutes.
NC State was chasing its first Final Four since 1998 while the University of Connecticut was looking for its 14th consecutive trip to the national semifinals.
There was a spectacular game, with two overtimes. There were 13 lead changes. Nine ties. The teams traded baskets as the crowd at Total Mortgage Arena roared.
The game of the women's NCAA tournament was made by the details. The epitome of March Madness was the game between two big men who were fighting for the chance to make it to Minneapolis and compete for a national championship.
Pick the winner of each game of the women's NCAA tournament. Play a tournament.
This was a game where the top seed in the region was a four-point favorite over the second seed, which was a stone's throw from the campus of the University of Connecticut. The noise felt like it exploded in your chest when the crowd cheered following a key basket or forced turnover.
This was a game where no matter who you were on, you could feel a lump at the top of your throat. There were stakes. NC State hadn't been in a Final Four in 24 years. The Wolfpack had been knocked out in the Sweet 16s three times. The crowd barely clapped as upbeat music was played. Who could clap in rhythm during this time?
Jakia Brown-Turner hit a 3-pointer to keep NC State alive.
If you thought it was over, you were wrong. NC State looked like it was going to repeat its Sweet 16 victory over Notre Dame when it came back from a 10-point deficit. NC State's Jakia Brown-Turner hit a corner 3 with less than a second to go in the second overtime to send the game into a second overtime.
Big-time players stepped up in big moments. The reigning national player of the year, who missed 19 games with a knee injury, hit the opening basket of the second overtime and followed it with a leaning pull-up 3-pointer. With the season on the line for NC State, trailing by five, Kai Crutchfield hit her second 3-pointer of the extra periods to pull NC State within two with 3:03 left in the game.
The game was seized by newcomers. When the spotlight was at its best, Azzi Fudd shined with 19 points. Fudd was there to chip in a bucket when the clock ran out in the fourth quarter. With less than a minute left in the game, Fudd drove to the right, and as she fell back on her heels, gave the ball to sophomore Aaliyah Edwards, who laid it in to extend the game.
Christyn Williams scored in the final seconds of double overtime as the University of Connecticut defeated NC State to reach the Final Four.
Everyone put their bodies on the line in this game. The two teams battled in the paint all night, with NC State scoring 44 points. The sounds of jerseys and sweat sliding against the hardwood were the beats underneath the cheers and whistles. When she was stuck in the lane with an unfavorable opponent, senior guard Evina Westbrook stretched her fingertips to tip the ball to her teammate. The person who was on the block or trying to move through the lane was a human pinball. They should beware of cutters.
Everyone deserved to win this game. As the time went to zero and Bueckers, a Minnesota native who finished with a game-high 27 points, screamed in triumph to the crowd, the Wolfpack huddled on the sideline, four of them for presumably the last time in college. They wore their caps and shirts as they were crowned regional champion. Bueckers hit the dance known as the Griddy as her teammates showered her with confetti.
One thing was clear as the players embraced one another and the remaining crowd clamored for photos and autographs.
This was a great game to play.