UConn women in regional semis for 20th year in row

March 25, 2013 - 10:28 PM
NCAA Vanderbilt UConn Basketball

Connecticut's Caroline Doty, left, and teammate Stefanie Dolson, right, pressure Vanderbilt's Christina Foggie, center, in the first half of a second-round game in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament in Storrs, Conn., Monday, March 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

STORRS, Conn. (AP) โ€” Connecticut has had its share of streaks, including a memorable 90 wins in a row between 2008 and 2010.

The Huskies added to another impressive run Monday night, advancing to the regional semifinals of the women's NCAA tournament for the 20th consecutive season with a 77-44 win over Vanderbilt.

"The consistency of our program, day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out is something that we can take great pride in," said coach Geno Auriemma. "I don't know who else has done it 20 years in a row, but it's really hard to do. Sometimes we make it look easy, but it's really hard to do."

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the way with 22 points for UConn, which faces Maryland on Saturday. Freshman Breanna Stewart added 14 points and Stefanie Dolson had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Huskies (31-4), who are seeking their sixth straight trip to the Final Four and eighth national championship.

Tiffany Clarke had 16 points for Vanderbilt (21-12), which dropped three of its last six games. Kendall Shaw came off the bench to add 12 points for the Commodores.

The Huskies led by 13 at halftime and opened the second half on a 17-0 run to put the game out of reach. UConn held Vanderbilt without a field goal for more than 7 minutes after intermission, and the Commodores missed 11 consecutive shots.

"We take a lot of pride in our defense," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "Coach told us at halftime, 'You guys can't just turn it on and off whenever you want, you have to stay consistent throughout the game.' As soon as we came out we knew that we had to flip the switch and make sure it stayed on the whole time."

Mosqueda-Lewis capped the big second-half run with a shot from behind the arc that made it 54-24. The basket also gave her the school record for 3-pointers in a season, surpassing Wendy Davis' 107 in 1991-92.

She came in shooting a nation-best 50 percent from behind the arc, and 44 percent in her two seasons at UConn.

"I know when the ball is in her hands good things are going to happen," said guard Caroline Doty.

The Huskies stretched the lead past 30 on a pair of free throws by Bria Hartley.

Hartley, who failed to reach double figures for the first time in an NCAA tournament game, was on the bench to start this one. Doty, playing her final game at Gampel Pavilion, got the start in her place.

UConn used stifling defense to hold Vanderbilt without a field goal for the first 4 minutes of the game and opened on an 8-1 run.

Shaw, who averages only three points, came off the bench to hit her first three shots for the Commodores and the Huskies led just 14-9 at the second media timeout.

UConn led 25-20 before scoring 12 straight points late in the first half. Mosqueda-Lewis tied the school record for 3s during that run, turning a missed free throw by Morgan Tuck into a four-point play with her long jumper.

The Huskies led 37-24 at the half. Mosqueda-Lewis had 11 by halftime and Stewart, who sat out the opening game of the tournament with a sore left calf, had nine points.

"I just enjoyed being out there and being able to play," she said. "I think there were a little bit of nerves because it was the first tournament game for me, but I got comfortable pretty quickly."

Clarke, who averages almost 17 points and 8.5 rebounds, had nine to keep the Commodores in striking distance. But with sharp-shooter Christina Foggie (two points) limited by a knee injury, the Commodores just didn't have the depth to stay with UConn.

Connecticut focused on stopping point guard Jasmine Lister, who averages more than 34 minutes, 12 points and five assists a game. She finished with just two points.

UConn forced 23 turnovers while committing 12. The Huskies also outrebounded Vanderbilt 34-24, holding Clarke to just two boards.

Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said the Commodores play a lot of teams in the Southestern Conference that are great on offense or have an outstanding defense. But none, she said, have the complete game the Huskies showed on Monday.

"They are excellent at both ends of the floor," Balcomb said. "And that's what our team saw tonight and that's why you saw the big difference in scoring compared to the Texas A&Ms, the Kentuckys, and the Tennessees that we stayed with better."

Connecticut (31-4), a top seed for the seventh straight season, has won 30 games for an NCAA-record eighth straight time.

The Huskies improved to 21-2 in second-round games. They have not missed a regional semifinal since losing to Louisville in the first round of the 1993 tournament.

The Commodores finished just 2-11 this season against teams with a top-50 RPI, beating Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

Vanderbilt is responsible for handing Connecticut its most lopsided NCAA Tournament defeat, 75-47, back in a 1992 second-round game. The Huskies have won the other two meetings between the two in the tournament, including a 67-57 victory in a 1997 regional semifinal.

UConn improved to 43-4 in NCAA Tournament games played in Connecticut, including 41 of their last 42. Thirty-two of those wins have come in Gampel Pavilion.

The Huskies stay in-state for the next two rounds, which will be played about 80 miles away in Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena, where the Huskies are 7-1 in previous NCAA tournaments.

"That's a huge luxury for us," said Stefanie Dolson. "We have the best fans in the world and they will follow us and come out for us there."