UConn women top Rutgers 83-57 in AAC semifinals
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) UConn made short work of Rutgers in the American Athletic Conference semifinals.
The top-ranked Huskies jumped out to a 13-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game, and led by 31 at the half en route to a 83-57 rout of the 24th-ranked Scarlet Knights on Sunday.
”We got out in transition; we moved the ball great; we got everybody involved; it wasn’t just one player,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. ”That entire first 20 minutes was as good of basketball as I could hope for, especially in the postseason.”
Conference player of the year Breanna Stewart scored 22 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 19, hitting five 3-pointers as the Huskies (33-0), extended the school’s third longest winning streak to 39 games.
UConn had 24 assists on their 33 baskets. Stefanie Dolson had 15 points, Bria Hartley added 12 and nine assists and Moriah Jefferson chipped in with 10 points and seven assists.
”When we’re playing like that, it’s fun,” said Hartley. ”I think we all had a great time out there and we really enjoyed it. So, I think we want to keep playing like that the rest of the way.”
Connecticut, which won 18 conference tournament championships in the Big East, will play for the inaugural American title Monday against No. 3 Louisville, which beat South Florida 60-56 in the other semifinal.
Briyona Canty had 16 points to lead Rutgers, which fell to 22-9 and must wait to see whether it has done enough to earn an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.
”It is an uncomfortable situation to be in, because we don’t really know” said Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, who added that she would accept a WNIT bid, something she has been opposed to in the past.
Rutgers was held scoreless for close to 3 1/2 minutes to start the game before Tyler Scaife, the league’s freshman of the year, made a layup.
That did little to slow the Huskies.
A 3-point play by Stewart gave the Huskies their first 20-point lead at 25-4, and a few minutes later brought the crowd to its feet with her defense. Up 30-9, she chased down Betnijah Laney and blocked a layup on what appeared to be an easy breakaway after a Rutgers steal and then made a 3-pointer on the other end.
”We’re always hustling back, because once someone turns it over and we lose the ball, we want to make up for it,” she said.
UConn made better than 58 percent of its shots before intermission and a 3-pointer by Jefferson gave the Huskies 50-19 lead at the break.
Rutgers, which did not attempt a 3-point shot, outscored UConn 38-33 in the second half, going on a 9-3 run to open the period, but it was far too little and much too late.
”We knew their game plan was to take us out in the first couple minutes,” said Laney. ”It was just a matter of us focusing on that and making sure they didn’t. But, it happened.”
Rachel Hollivay blocked three shots, giving her 99 for the season, passing Sue Wicks for the program’s single-season mark.
Rutgers, which beat SMU 68-49 in the quarterfinals, was playing its final game in the conference. The Scarlet Knights move to the Big Ten next season. Rutgers falls to just 1-5 this season against teams ranked in the Top 25. The lone win came by three points against Georgia in December.
The Huskies improve to 33-6 against the Scarlet Knight in the final meeting between the two as conference rivals. They are now 8-1 against Rutgers in conference tournament games.
UConn also has beaten Louisville twice this season, by 17 points at home and 20 points last week in Kentucky.
But Auriemma knows the Cardinals have a bit more motivation this time around.
”Not only to win a conference championship, but if they win (Monday) then they are definitely a No. 1 seed,” he said. ”So, it should be a great atmosphere.”