By: PAT EATON-ROBB
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) American Athletic Conference player of the year Breanna Stewart scored 22 points Saturday to lead top-ranked UConn to a 72-42 rout of eighth-seeded Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Bria Hartley added 17 points for the Huskies (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. But the Huskies scored the next 10, part of a 20-4 run that gave them a comfortable 37-17 halftime lead.
Stewart had 13 of her points by intermission.
The Huskies opened the second half with a 13-3 run, and cruised from 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.
They shot just 32 percent on Saturday.
Cincinnati lost its final two regular-season games before holding on to beat Central Florida 54-52 in the tournament’s first round on Friday night.
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.”