By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) _ Breanna Stewart scored 22 points and top-ranked UConn breezed into the finals of the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament with an 83-57 rout of No. 24 Rutgers on Sunday.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 19 points, including hitting five 3-pointers, for the Huskies (33-0), who extended the school’s third longest winning streak to 39 games.
Connecticut, which won 18 conference tournament championships in the Big East, will play for the inaugural American title on Monday against either No. 3 Louisville or South Florida.
UConn put this one away early. The Huskies hit their first four shots and jumped out to a 13-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game. They led by 31 at the half.
Briyona Canty had 16 points to lead Rutgers, which fell to 22-9 and must wait to see whether it has done enough to earn an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.
All five UConn starters scored in double figures and the Huskies had 24 assists on their 33 baskets. Stefanie Dolson had 15 points, Bria Hartley added 12 and nine assists and Moriah Jefferson chipped in with 10 points and seven assists.
Rutgers was held scoreless for close to 31/2 minutes to start the game before Tyler Scaife, the league’s freshman of the year, made a layup.
That did little to slow the Huskies.
A 3-point play by Stewart gave the Huskies their first 20-point lead at 25-4. The conference player of the year brought the crowd to its feet with her defense, chasing down Betnijah Laney and blocking a shot after a steal and what appeared to be an easy breakaway layup. She then hit a 3-point shot on the other end to make it 33-9.
UConn made better than 58 percent of its shots before intermission and a 3-pointer by Jefferson gave the Huskies 50-19 lead at the break.
Rutgers outscored UConn 38-33 in the second half, going on a 9-3 run to open the period, but it was far too little and much too late.
Rachel Hollivay blocked three shots, giving her 99 for the season, passing Sue Wicks for the program’s single-season mark.
Rutgers, which beat SMU 68-49 in the quarterfinals, was playing its final game in the conference. The Scarlet Knights move to the Big Ten next season. Rutgers falls to just 1-5 this season against teams ranked in the Top 25. The lone win came by three points against Georgia in December.
The Huskies improve to 33-6 against the Scarlet Knight in the final meeting between the two as conference rivals. They are now 8-1 against Rutgers in conference tournament games.
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