No. 3 UConn 83, No. 7 Kentucky 53
A’dia Mathies has helped turn Kentucky into a contender during
her career. The senior just couldn’t get the Wildcats over the hump
to their first Final Four.
She scored 14 points in Kentucky’s 83-53 loss to Connecticut on
Monday night in the Bridgeport regional final. It was the second
straight season that the Wildcats lost to the Huskies with a
national semifinal berth on the line.
”It’s been a great turnaround,” Mathies said. ”I’m glad I can
leave here and look back and know that Kentucky is a national
The Wildcats have made the NCAA tournament in each of the past
four seasons and reached the regional finals in three of those
years falling short each time.
Mathies, along with fellow senior Brittany Henderson, finished
as the winningest class in school history with 111 victories.
”It looks a lot different when she’s walking out the door than
when she was walking in the door,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell
said. ”I hate how we performed the way we did and sent her out
this way. I hope the contribution she made and impact she made
doesn’t get lost in a real tough 40 minutes for us.”
Kentucky led 23-22 with 9 minutes left in the first half before
UConn turned up its defense and turned away the Wildcats, who
missed 13 of 14 shots during UConn’s 26-3 game-changing run.
While UConn was playing lockdown defense, Breanna Stewart was
dominating on the offensive end. The 6-foot-4 star, who was the
national high school player of the year last season, scored nine
points and had a vicious two-handed block during that closing
After Jelleah Sidney’s 3-pointer, Stewart calmly converted a
three-point play on the other end. UConn led 48-26 at the half.
Kentucky couldn’t get within 20 in the second half.
”We’re either right on point, we do everything right or we get
a little bit off kilter and lose our composure a little bit,”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ”Once we got into our rhythm and
our tempo, we just played good basketball.”
The loudest cheer of the night from the sellout crowd of nearly
8,600 came when the video board showed highlights of Louisville’s
upset victory over Baylor on Sunday night.
UConn’s only losses this season came to Baylor and three times
to Notre Dame.
Stewart didn’t play well in most of those losses, but really has
stepped her game up over the past few weeks. After struggling
through the middle part of the season, the heralded first-year
player has averaged 16.4 points since the start of the Big East
It’s been an unusual season for UConn, which for the first time
in 19 years didn’t win either the Big East regular season or
tournament title. Now the Huskies are two wins away from an eighth
This was the 19th time in the past 23 seasons that UConn had
reached the regional final. They have made the Final Four 14 times
overall, including the last six.
”I don’t know more things in sports that are more impressive,”
said Mitchell of UConn’s streak. ”They have talented players who
are extremely well coached and work extremely hard.”
None of the regional final games during this current run have
been close with only Rutgers coming within 10 in 2008. UConn’s lead
ballooned to 36 points in the second half of this game. When the
final buzzer sounded Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis jumped into the arms of
Stewart to celebrate.
Auriemma got a gritty effort out of junior center Stefanie
Dolson, who has a stress fracture in her right ankle and an injured
left foot as well. She wore a brace on her left leg and a
compression sock on her right one. While she only scored two
points, she had 11 rebounds and four assists.
”She might have been leading rebounder in whole tournament,”
Auriemma said. ”She’s grownup and changed her mindset. What I most
admired about her this tournament was every time she was on the
bench she kept looking at me why am I out. That for somebody who is
hurting that much who didn’t practice yesterday and walked through
shootaround that epitomizes the spirit we have right now on this
The Huskies have won 43 of their past 44 NCAA games in the state
of Connecticut, including going 9-1 in Bridgeport. The lone blemish
came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.
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