Youthful Huskies Roll Past Terps
Freshmen Lead UConn to Another Regional Final
Connecticut's Breanna Stewart, left, fouls Maryland's Malina Howard during the second half of a regional semifinal in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Bridgeport, Conn., Saturday, March 30, 2013. Connecticut won 76-50. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Delaware guard Trumae Lucas tries to get the rebound against Kentucky during an NCAA women's college regional semifinal basketball game in Bridgeport, Conn., Saturday, March 30, 2013. Kentucky won 69-62. (AP Photo/The Wilmington News-Journal, Suchat Pederson) NO SALES.
Bridgeport, Conn. — Connecticut’s youngest players have the Huskies back in an old and familiar spot.
Freshmen Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck combined for 35 points as UConn (32-4) advanced to their eighth straight regional final with a 76-50 blowout over Maryland yesterday.
“I think we were 16 for 28 from the floor, our freshmen,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “One turnover between the three of them. I thought they were the key to the game today for sure.”
Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis each had 17 points to lead the Huskies. Stewart also had eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
Jefferson made several key defensive stops and her two fast-break layups capped a 9-0 run to start the second half, giving UConn a 44-26 lead and control of the game.
“We got in a nice offensive flow,” she said. “Once the transition game came, then the offensive flow was right there.”
Her layup midway through the half stretched the lead to 60-38. She finished with 10 points and Tuck had eight as the Huskies bench outscored Maryland’s 25-0.
“They didn’t play like freshmen at all,” center Stefanie Dolson said. “They came out confident and ready to play. They knew what they needed to do for our team and what they can do.”
Two-time ACC player of the year Alyssa Thomas, who had scored 29 and 28 points in the team’s first two tournament games, was held to 13 for Maryland, which finished its season at 26-8. Tianna Hawkins and Chloe Pavlech each had 11 points for the Terps.
Maryland trailed 35-26 at the half and went scoreless for the first 3 minutes after intermission allowing UConn to blow the game open.
“I thought we’d come out of the locker room with a lot more energy,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “They came with a knockout punch in the second half.”
The Huskies will play Kentucky tomorrow night in a rematch of last year’s regional final, which was played just over 100 miles away in Kingston, R.I. UConn won that game 80-65.
The Wildcats beat Delaware 69-62 earlier Saturday.
Connecticut will be playing in a regional final for the 19th time. The Huskies have made five consecutive trips to the Final Four and are seeking their eighth national title.
It was the second win over Maryland this season for UConn. The Huskies won by 15 points in the Jimmy V Classic in December. Thomas had just six points in that game, and the Huskies held the Terps to just 48 points, their lowest output this season. They also were outrebounded 39-35, one of just five times that happened this season.
Maryland came into the game ranked second in the nation in rebounding margin, grabbing more than 14 more boards per game than its opponents. The Terps had outrebounded opponents in 32 of their first 33 games.
But UConn won that battle this time around 41-36.
“We were really looking forward to getting back on the court,” Stewart said. “We knew Maryland was very physical and we just wanted to come out and disrupt them defensively.”
Kentucky 69, Delaware 62
Bridgeport, Conn. — Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has his team one victory away from the school’s first Final Four. The Wildcats had to overcome an incredible effort by Elena Delle Donne to get there.
Jennifer O’Neill scored 19 points and A’dia Mathies added 16 to help Kentucky hold off the Blue Hens in the Bridgeport regional semifinals, bringing to an end the stellar career of Delle Donne.
It’s the second straight season that Kentucky (30-5) has advanced to the regional final and will play Connecticut.
Kentucky withstood a Delaware rally led by Delle Donne, who had 33 points for Delaware (32-4). The Wildcats led by 14 in the second half before the Blue Hens cut it to 62-60.
But Kastine Evans calmly responded with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 65-60.
Jaquetta May had three chances at putbacks on the other end, but couldn’t convert and that ended any shot of the upset and finished off Delaware’s amazing season.
Delle Donne ended as the fifth all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,039 points. She passed former stars Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw and Maya Moore yesterdya. Delle Donne finished short of Jackie Stiles’ all-time scoring mark of 3,393 set at Southwest Missouri State from 1998-2001.