By: Pat Eaton-Robb
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) Breanna Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis each scored 17 points, leading top-seeded Connecticut over Maryland 76-50 on Saturday in the Bridgeport regional semifinals.
Stewart got help from fellow freshmen Moriah Jefferson, 10 points, and Morgan Tuck, eight points, in sending the top-seeded Huskies (32-4) to their eighth straight NCAA regional final.
Alyssa Thomas, who had averaged 28.5 points in the tournament, had 13 to lead Maryland, which finished its season at 26-8. Tianna Hawkins and Chloe Pavlech each had 11 points for the Terps.
UConn led 35-26 at halftime, then opened the second half on a 9-0 run.
The Huskies will play Kentucky in on Monday night in a rematch of last year’s regional final, which was played just over 100 miles away in Kingston, R.I. 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.
Connecticut’s freshmen were not part of any of that. But they were the difference in this one.
Stewart pulled down nine rebounds and also blocked four shots.
Jefferson made several key defensive stops and her two fast-break layups capped the early second half run that pushed UConn’s lead to 18 at 44-26 and gave the
Huskies control of the game.
Her blow-by layup midway through the half stretched the lead to 60-38. UConn’s reserves outscored Maryland’s 25-0.
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 their opponents. They had outrebounded opponents in 32 of their 33 games.
UConn won that battle this time around 41-36.
Stefanie Dolson had 10 to go with nine points.
Maryland hit just seven of its first 23 shots, but was 4 of 7 from 3-point range during that span, and trailed just 23-20 midway through the first half.
But 3-pointers from Bria Hartley and Kelly Faris pushed the lead to nine, and started a 12-1 run.
The Huskies looked as if they were about to extend that further, when Faris drove to the basket and appeared to take a hard foul. But there was no whistle, infuriating coach Geno Auriemma, who received a technical foul.
Thomas made one of two foul shots, then hit a jump shot that cut the lead to nine, 35-26, at halftime.