2:20 PM ET, March 8, 2014
Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- UConn players expect they are going to go on a big run at some point in every game, they just never quite know when.
It came late in the first half Saturday, a 20-4 spurt that helped turn a close game with Cincinnati into a 72-42 rout in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
"If we could have a run the whole 40 minutes of the game, we'd take that," said American Athletic Conference player of the year Breanna Stewart, who scored 22 points to lead the top-ranked Huskies. "But we're shortening the game to four minutes at a time, and just making sure that if they go on their run, that's fine and well, but we're going to go on ours."
Bria Hartley added 17 points for UConn (32-0), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 12 and Stefanie Dolson had 10 points and nine rebounds.
UConn extended the school's third longest winning streak to 38 games. The Huskies, who won their regular-season conference games by an average of 37 points, will play No. 24 Rutgers in the semifinals. The Scarlet Knights beat SMU 68-49 earlier Saturday.
Jeanise Randolph had 14 points for Cincinnati, which finishes the season at 13-18.
UConn never trailed, but Cincinnati stayed with the Huskies for much of the first half. The Bearcats cut the deficit to 17-13 on a layup by Randolph.
That's when the Huskies took over. They scored the next 10, 20 of the next 24 and had a comfortable 37-17 halftime lead.
"I liked the way my players came out to start the beginning of the game," said Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott. "But then UConn does what UConn do. They go on runs at different stretches of the game. And once they go on runs, when you are the opposing team, it's really hard to come back from that."
Stewart had 13 of her points by intermission. The Huskies opened the second half with another 13-3 run, and cruised from there.
"I thought it took us a little longer than I wanted to for us to get going defensively," said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. "But once we got that going, I thought it was pretty good by our guys."
The Huskies held the Bearcats to just 32 percent shooting, forced 23 turnovers and blocked six shots.
They also had some fun. Dolson did a nice imitation of Auriemma on the sideline, after her coach had to high step around some players careening toward his bench.
"It hard to go out every night, and we always have to defend being number-one in the country," Dolson said. "I can't say that we're all super loose, but we try to have some fun out there."
Connecticut, which has won at least 30 games for the ninth straight year, went undefeated in the regular season for the seventh time.
The Huskies will again be heavily favored on Sunday. They beat Rutgers by 30 points on the road and by 37 in Storrs last week.
The Huskies place four players on the all-conference first team, and have the league's player of the year (Stewart), coach of the year (Auriemma), and defensive player of the year (Dolson).
UConn is seeking it's 20th conference tournament title, after winning 19 in the Big East, including six of its final seven in that conference. The only loss during that span came to Notre Dame last year.
The Bearcats defense had been holding opponents to more than 13 points below their season averages, and conference foes to just 59 points a game.
But the Huskies won the regular-season meetings by a combined 90 points, beating the Bearcats 67-34 at home in December and 86-29 at Cincinnati last month.
The Bearcats fall to 3-8 since losing leading scorer Dayeesha Hollins for the season with a knee injury in late January.
Former UConn men's star Andre Drummond, whose Detroit Pistons play in Boston Sunday, was in the stands. He said he decided to surprise Mosqueda-Lewis, who has been a close friend since they were freshmen together.
He also was a regular at the women's games as a student.
"They play with a lot of effort and energy," he said. "They get the crowd going and they play hard every possession. I love that."
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||16-50 (.320)||26-55 (.473)|
|3P Made-Attempted||5-16 (.313)||4-16 (.250)|
|FT Made-Attempted||5-6 (.833)||16-17 (.941)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||11 (0/0)||10 (0/0)|