TULSA, Okla. (AP) Breanna Stewart is elevating her game.
That’s a challenge for the reigning national player of the year, but Connecticut’s star forward is doing it. The junior scored a season-high 28 points, and No. 1 Connecticut defeated Tulsa 92-46 on Saturday for its 25th straight win.
Stewart made 13 of 18 shots to along with nine rebounds and six blocks for the Huskies (26-1, 15-0 American).
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”I’m just trying to be really aggressive,” she said. ”As we’re coming down to the end of the season, you want to be clicking on all cylinders, and you’ve got to start it sometime. I’m just bringing my game to another level as we go into the end of the season and the conference tournament.”
Stewart scored 26 points in her previous game against Houston. Two games before that, she scored 22 in a win over then-No. 1 South Carolina. She’s averaging 21.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in her most recent four-game stretch while shooting 58 percent from the field.
”There’s a lot to Stewie,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. ”I don’t know that there is a player you could put on her who could take care of all the things she does. She’s tough to handle in the lane if you’re not big enough, and tough to handle on the perimeter if you’re not quick enough. She’s a great 3-point shooter. She took the last one in the first half from NBA range and it went up easy and in easy.”
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 17 points, hitting five 3-pointers. Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse each scored 12 points and Saniya Chong had 11 for the Huskies, who shot 56 percent from the field and outrebounded the Golden Hurricane 43-27.
Auriemma, always pushing, still isn’t satisfied.
”I don’t think the team is ever where the coaching staff wants it to be,” he said. ”There is always something to work on, some things we can do much better. But we’re in a pretty good place.”
Kelsee Grovey and Ashley Clark each scored 13 points for Tulsa (14-12, 9-6), which lost its second straight after a six-game win streak. The Golden Hurricane shot 34 percent from the field and suffered their worst loss of the season in front of a season-high home crowd of 3,568.
Grovey made two 3-pointers in the first 1:18 to give the Golden Hurricane a 6-4 lead, but Connecticut responded with a 19-0 run while holding Tulsa scoreless for more than five minutes.
Grovey’s 3-pointer cut Connecticut’s lead to 28-21 with 8:54 left in the first half, but the Huskies outscored the Golden Hurricane 30-2 to lead 58-23 at the break.
”Our coaches talked about how they’re going to throw the first punch, and we’re going to have to always respond,” Grovey said. ”They threw the first punch, we responded. They threw another, we responded. They threw that third punch, and we didn’t respond.”
Stewart made 11 of 15 shots in the first half and had six rebounds and four blocks. Connecticut shot 64 percent in the first half, while Tulsa shot 32 percent.
UConn remained in control and played mostly reserves in the second half. Stewart played just nine minutes after the break.
”The thing that outweighs everything is how hard those guys play,” Tulsa coach Matilda Mossman said. ”I have great respect for that.”
Connecticut: Stewart made more field goals in the first half (11) than Tulsa’s entire team (9). … It was the Huskies’ first trip to Tulsa. … Jefferson had five assists in the first half.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane have never beaten a Top 25 team. … Tulsa’s only other game against a No. 1 team was a 90-36 loss to Duke on Dec. 21, 2002. … Tulsa Shock coach Fred Williams attended the game. … Tulsa finished with eight assists and 17 turnovers.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Grovey, on Stewart: She does everything. She is very tough. She’s 6-foot-4. She can shoot over the top of you, she can hit the three, she can shoot off the dribble. She’s a great player. She’s tough.”
Connecticut’s point total was the most ever scored by a Tulsa opponent at the Reynolds Center, where the team started playing during the 1998-99 season. The previous record was 91 by Florida Atlantic last season.
Connecticut: at Tulane on Monday.
Tulsa: at Memphis on Tuesday.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.