Huskies feel right at home in reach­ing re­gion fi­nal

CON­NECTI­CUT 86, UCLA 71

The Washington Post Sunday - - NCAA TOURNAMENT - BY GENE WANG gene.wang@wash­post.com

bridge­port, conn. — One hun­dred ten and count­ing for the Con­necti­cut women’s bas­ket­ball team.

That’s how many games in a row the Huskies, the No. 1 over­all seed in the NCAA tour­na­ment, have won after han­dling No. 4 seed UCLA, 86-71, on Satur­day af­ter­noon in the Bridge­port Re­gion’s round of 16 at Web­ster Bank Arena.

The Huskies (35-0) carry the long­est win­ning streak in col­lege bas­ket­ball his­tory into Mon­day night’s re­gion fi­nal against up­start Oregon, which as a No. 10 seed beat third-seeded Mary­land, 7763, in the other semi­fi­nal. Con­necti­cut ad­vanced to its 12th con­sec­u­tive re­gion fi­nal and will be seek­ing a 10th straight trip to the Fi­nal Four.

In what es­sen­tially was a Con­necti­cut home game be­fore an an­nounced sell­out crowd of 8,830, fans rose from their seats also to ap­plaud Huskies Coach Geno Auriemma as he walked off the court after set­ting the record for most wins (112) in NCAA tour­na­ment his­tory. Late Ten­nessee coach Pat Sum­mitt had held the pre­vi­ous record.

“Ob­vi­ously we played a re­ally, re­ally good team,” Auriemma said. “They’re hard to play against, and to­day was a strug­gle for us. Even when we got up 20, I didn’t think it was like be­ing up 20 against some­body else where you know it’s go­ing to go from 20 to 30. I never had that feel­ing, and it was a grind for our guys, and we felt it a lit­tle bit in the fourth quar­ter.”

Still, Con­necti­cut led by at least 12 in the sec­ond half in its 24th con­sec­u­tive ap­pear­ance in the round of 16. Its largest lead was 45-25 with 1:30 re­main­ing un­til half­time.

Con­necti­cut had four play­ers score in dou­ble fig­ures, in­clud­ing Napheesa Col­lier’s game-high 27 points on 10-for-16 shoot­ing. The sopho­more for­ward added a team-high 14 re­bounds and five as­sists and re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion as she ex­ited with five fouls with 55 sec­onds to play.

Gabby Wil­liams con­trib­uted 17 points and nine re­bounds, mak­ing 7 of 12 shots as part of the Huskies’ 56 per­cent shoot­ing. Kia Nurse (nine points) and Saniya Chong (16 points) each made three-point­ers to help Con­necti­cut go 9 for 20 (45 per­cent) from beyond the arc for a 107th win by dou­ble dig­its dur­ing the streak.

The only schools to have got­ten within 10 points of Con­necti­cut in that span are Florida State, Mary­land and Tu­lane, all this sea­son.

The Huskies lim­ited UCLA (25-9) to 38 per­cent shoot­ing, in­clud­ing just 5 for 17 in the fourth quar­ter. So de­fen­sively sound was Con­necti­cut that it was never threat­ened in the late stages de­spite go­ing the fi­nal 6:15 with­out con­vert­ing a field goal. It also didn’t have much cause for alarm de­spite fac­ing a more than two-toone deficit in turnovers.

UCLA missed 10 of its last 12 field goal at­tempts and its fi­nal five over­all. Jordin Canada led the Bru­ins with 20 points and 11 as­sists.

Among the few con­cerns for Con­necti­cut en­ter­ing Mon­day’s re­gion fi­nal was how quickly it could re­cover from us­ing just six play­ers against the Bru­ins. Ev­ery starter played at least 31 min­utes, with Katie Lou Sa­muel­son play­ing the en­tire game. The only re­serve Auriemma used was fresh­man guard Crys­tal Danger­field, who played 17 min­utes.

Depth has been some­what of an is­sue for the Huskies this sea­son, but Auriemma was able to use 10 play­ers dur­ing each of the pre­vi­ous two games in the NCAA tour­na­ment. The Huskies won those games by an av­er­age of nearly 46 points.

“I think we were kind of just ex­hausted,” Wil­liams said of el­e­vated min­utes for the Huskies’ starters against UCLA. “It was a long fi­nal three min­utes. We were happy once we got back in the locker room, but we didn’t end the game as well as we would have liked to, and I think the [tired] look on our face was a re­sult of kind of how the last three min­utes dragged for us.”

JES­SICA HILL/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Con­necti­cut’s Katie Lou Sa­muel­son played all 40 min­utes against UCLA. The Huskies used six play­ers in reach­ing the round of eight.

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