No. 3 UConn 76, No. 12 Maryland 50

Connecticut’s youngest players have the Huskies back in an old
and familiar spot.

Freshmen Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck
combined for 35 points as UConn (32-4) advanced to their eighth
straight regional final with a 76-50 blowout over Maryland on
Saturday.

”I think we were 16 for 28 from the floor, our freshmen,”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ”One turnover between the three of
them. I thought they were the key to the game today for sure.”

Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis each had 17 points
to lead the Huskies. Stewart also had eight rebounds and four
blocked shots.

Jefferson made several key defensive stops and her two
fast-break layups capped a 9-0 run to start the second half, giving
UConn a 44-26 lead and control of the game.

”We got in a nice offensive flow,” she said. ”Once the
transition game came, then the offensive flow was right
there.”

Her layup midway through the half stretched the lead to 60-38.
She finished with 10 points and Tuck had eight as the Huskies bench
outscored Maryland’s 25-0.

”They didn’t play like freshmen at all,” center Stefanie
Dolson said. ”They came out confident and ready to play. They knew
what they needed to do for our team and what they can do.”

Two-time ACC player of the year Alyssa Thomas, who had scored 29
and 28 points in the team’s first two tournament games, was held to
13 for Maryland, which finished its season at 26-8. Tianna Hawkins
and Chloe Pavlech each had 11 points for the Terps.

Maryland trailed 35-26 at the half and went scoreless for the
first 3 minutes after intermission allowing UConn to blow the game
open.

”I thought we’d come out of the locker room with a lot more
energy,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. ”They came with a
knockout punch in the second half.”

The Huskies will play Kentucky on Monday night in a rematch of
last year’s regional final, which was played just over 100 miles
away in Kingston, R.I. UConn won that game 80-65.

The Wildcats beat Delaware 69-62 earlier Saturday.

Connecticut will be playing in a regional final for the 19th
time. The Huskies have made five consecutive trips to the Final
Four and are seeking their eighth national title.

It was the second win over Maryland this season for UConn. The
Huskies won by 15 points in the Jimmy V Classic in December. Thomas
had just six points in that game, and the Huskies held the Terps to
just 48 points, their lowest output this season. They also were
outrebounded 39-35, one of just five times that happened this
season.

Maryland came into the game ranked second in the nation in
rebounding margin, grabbing more than 14 more boards per game than
its opponents. The Terps had outrebounded opponents in 32 of their
first 33 games.

But UConn won that battle this time around 41-36.

”We were really looking forward to getting back on the court,”
Stewart said. ”We knew Maryland was very physical and we just
wanted to come out and disrupt them defensively.”

Maryland hit just seven of its first 23 shots, but was 4 of 7
from 3-point range during that span, and trailed just 23-20 midway
through the first half.

But 3-pointers from Bria Hartley and Kelly Faris pushed the lead
to nine, and started a 12-1 run.

The Huskies looked as if they were about to extend that further,
when Faris drove to the basket and appeared to take a hard foul.
But there was no whistle, infuriating coach Geno Auriemma, who
received a technical foul.

Thomas made one of two foul shots, then hit a jump shot that cut
the lead to nine 35-26 at halftime.

UConn is 44-4 in NCAA tournament games played in the state and
8-1 in Bridgeport.

UConn’s lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional
final.

Maryland was in its 10th regional semifinal and looking to make
back-to-back trips to the regional final despite losing three
players this season to ACL injuries, including the expected
starting backcourt, guards Brene Moseley and Laurin Mincy.

”Next year we’ll have plenty of numbers, a full roster,”
Thomas said. ”Not to take away from this season, but looking
forward to next season, we’re going to be a tough team to stop next
year.”