By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) _ Gabby Williams scored 19 points to lead No. 1 UConn to a 70-54 victory over 19th-ranked South Florida on Tuesday in the American Athletic Conference championship.
Williams returned to the Huskies’ lineup after sitting out the semifinals to rest a hip injury she tweaked on Sunday. The senior forward has been dealing with the hip injury all season. She had UConn’s first basket after stealing the ball near midcourt. Williams also had seven rebounds, six assists and five steals before exiting the game for good with just under 6 minutes left. Just before she left, Williams landed hard after scoring a basket.
This was the fourth straight year that these teams met for the AAC title. South Florida had lost the first three meetings by an average of 32 points and has never beaten UConn in 26 all-time meetings. Then again, no one has beaten the Huskies in the conference since league play began in 2013. The Huskies are 101-0.
Tournament MVP Azura Stevens added 13 points for the Huskies (32-0).
Kitija Laksa scored 26 points to lead South Florida (26-7).
UConn led 23-20 early in the second quarter as the Bulls were able to slow down the game, but the Huskies only allowed South Florida to score three more points for the rest of the half. Katie Lou Samuelson’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer gave UConn a 37-23 advantage at the break.
The Bulls scored the first four points of the second half to get within 10 before UConn put the game away with the next seven.
Later in the third quarter, the Huskies had a nifty fast break. Williams caught a pass near the foul line before tipping it in the air to Samuelson for the lay-in. That made it 48-30 with 3:57 left in the third. It was 55-32 by the end of the quarter and UConn never looked back.
NOT SO “FREE” THROW
It took just over 38 minutes for South Florida to get its first attempts at the foul line. Laksa hit both attempts with 1:41 left in the game. UConn was 8 for 13.
Laksa set a new USF record for 3s in a single season with 121.She broke the old mark of 117 set by Janae Stokes in 2008-09.
This is the ninth time that UConn is entering the NCAA Tournament unbeaten. The Huskies have finished the season unbeaten six times and twice lost in the NCAAs, including last season’s defeat in the Final Four. They also lost in 1996-97 in the regional finals. UConn won the title while going undefeated in 1995, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2016.
South Florida: Awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding.
UConn: Most likely will earn the top seed in the Albany Region.
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