Unbeaten UConn gives coach a happy 60th birthday in first round
STORRS, Conn. — UConn’s players had a couple of presents for coach Geno Auriemma on his 60th birthday.
The first was a video in which they altered the words to the Commodores classic song "Brick House" to have a little fun at his expense.
The second was an 87-44 rout of Prairie View A&M on Sunday, giving Auriemma his 92nd NCAA tournament win.
Breanna Stewart led a balanced offense with 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead five Huskies in double figures.
Moriah Jefferson had 14 points, four assists and five steals. Bria Hartley had 16 points.
"To be able to come into this game and have everyone contribute in some way is only going to help us going forward," said Stewart. "It makes us hard to guard."
LaReahn Washington scored 13 points to lead Prairie View. The Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament champions finish their season at 14-18.
The Huskies, who just completed their seventh undefeated regular season, are looking for a record ninth NCAA title. They will face Saint Joseph’s in a second-round game Tuesday night. The Hawks beat Georgia 67-57 earlier Sunday.
The victory extended the third-longest winning streak in program history to 41 games, a streak that started with a win in the first round of last year’s tournament.
UConn wrapped this one up very early, scoring the game’s first 15 points and holding Prairie View without a basket for the first 5 1/2 minutes of the game.
Stefanie Dolson made the first three baskets, and had eight of the first 10 points. She finished with 11 points, six rebounds and six assists. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Jefferson gave the Huskies their first 30-point lead at 42-12 after rebounding a Stewart miss late in the first half, and UConn led 44-12 at intermission.
They opened the second half on a 16-0 run and led 73-23 after a 3-pointer by Hartley.
"We really wanted to come out and we were excited to play so I think we really wanted to get out to a good start," Hartley said.
The Huskies held Prairie view to 25 percent shooting (16 of 64) and outrebounded the Lady Panthers 52-28, including 44-12 in the first half. The Huskies sang happy birthday and clapped as Auriemma was doing his postgame television interview.
The biggest cheer after intermission came when the UConn cheerleaders were able to hold one of their members aloft longer than Prairie View’s cheerleading team in a contest held during a timeout.
They are now 10-1 his birthday, the lone loss coming to North Carolina State in the 1998 regional final.
The players would not reveal the lyrics in the video tribute, but said they had fun making it, and it helped relieve a little of the pressure of being expected to win another national title.
Dolson said this one, unlike some of the other music videos the team has made, won’t be appearing on YouTube.
"It was more of just a present for him, so he can keep it," she said. "Of course we’ll make a few copies for ourselves."
The Lady Panthers were just the ninth team to get a tournament berth with a losing record, after winning their fourth consecutive SWAC conference title. The team lost its first 11 games this season, before turning things around late. But they fall to 0-6 in the NCAA tournament.
Despite that, coach Dawn Brown said she takes a lot of positives out of the game, especially the second half when the team got down by 50 early and outscored the Huskies the rest of the way.
"This was a milestone for us compared to where we were 30 games ago to where we are today," she said.
UConn has been beating opponents by an average of 36 points a game this season, about a point better than their margin of victory in last year’s six tournament games that ended with the program’s eighth national title.
The Huskies, who are making their 26th straight appearance in the tournament, have made the regional semifinals 20 straight times since losing in the first round to Louisville in 1993.
Auriemma’s 92 tournament wins leave him 20 behind fellow Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt for the most of any college coach, men’s or women’s. Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski is in third place with 81.
The Huskies also added to some other impressive numbers, improving to 46-4 in NCAA games played in Connecticut, and 33-3 in games played at Gampel Pavilion.