No. 1 UConn women roll past No. 24 Rutgers 72-35
STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn continued its perfect season with another blowout victory.
Now the top-ranked team will try and win outright the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship on Monday with a win over No. 3 Louisville.
”They want a share of the title and they’re going to have to beat us to get it,” said Geno Auriemma after Saturday’s 72-35 win over No. 24 Rutgers that clinched at least a share of the AAC title. ”We don’t share very well here at Connecticut. We’re not into having parades if you tie for a league championship.”
If Louisville wins the game, a coin flip would determine the top seed for the conference tournament.
”If we want to win it outright, we have to beat a really good team on their home court in front of a soldout building,” Auriemma said. ”Maybe that’s the way it should be. I’m sure Louisville is going to be off the charts ready.”
Breanna Stewart scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds and Bria Hartley scored 20 points to lead the Huskies (30-0, 17-0 American). Moriah Jefferson had nine points, five rebounds and four assists and Stefanie Dolson had six points and 10 rebounds. Kiah Stokes added 11 rebounds. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who missed the previous four games with mononucleosis, returned and scored seven points in 27 minutes.
Betnijah Laney led Rutgers with 14 points.
Connecticut defeated Rutgers (21-7, 12-5) for the 12th straight time.
”We just weren’t in sync,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. ”I’m not saying Connecticut wasn’t a creator of that. We were just struggling quite a bit.”
It didn’t help the Scarlet Knights that leading scorer Kahleah Copper missed the game with turf toe. Stringer said she expects Copper to play Monday night against South Florida, a game that will decide the third and fourth seeds in the upcoming conference tournament.
”We’re obviously not very deep offensively,” Stringer said. ”What’s most important is the way (Copper) scores. There’s no one else that’s doing things like her for us.”
Stringer was impressed with Connecticut and said the Huskies are the favorite to win the national championship.
”I don’t think there’s anyone that’s seriously going to challenge them,” she said. ”Give all the credit to UConn. There are no other teams that are so well organized and play with that extreme precision and skill.
”What I think doesn’t really make a whole heck of a lot of difference,” Stringer said. ”But this team is one like we have not seen, period. Only Geno could tell you if there’s been another team at UConn that’s better.”
Auriemma appreciated Stringer’s sentiments, but wasn’t sure if this is his best team in 28 years at Connecticut.
”Not to demean this particular team, but I probably don’t give them as much credit as they deserve,” Auriemma said. ”If we finish undefeated and win the national championship, I might change my mind.”
UConn held Rutgers scoreless for a period of 5 minutes 20 seconds in the first half and gradually extended its lead. Rutgers missed six shots in that span.
Connecticut never trailed.
Stewart scored 11 of her 13 first-half points in the first 6:27 as Connecticut opened an 18-8 lead. Hartley, one of two Connecticut seniors honored on senior day, made consecutive 3-pointers that eventually have UConn a 26-8 lead.
Hartley’s third three of the first half gave UConn its biggest lead at 40-16. The Huskies led 45-20 at halftime.
Connecticut outscored Rutgers 10-4 to begin the second half and opened a 55-24 lead. Rutgers never threatened.
Dolson became the fifth player in UConn program history to amass 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, joining Tina Charles, Rebecca Lobo, Maya Moore and Jamelle Elliott.
”You can’t measure what Stefanie does just on points,” Auriemma said. ”She continues to get better and better. This is the way it’s supposed to be on senior night. Play well and enjoy yourself. And they did.”
Connecticut also set a team record for blocks in a single season. Stokes’ block in the first half gave UConn its 251st block and the record.