BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Connecticut is headed back to a familiar place – the Final Four.
Breanna Stewart scored 21 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 17 to help top-seed UConn rout Kentucky 83-53 on Monday night and advance to a record sixth straight national semifinal.
The Huskies will face either Notre Dame or Duke in the national semifinals on Sunday in New Orleans. The Irish and Blue Devils play tonight. UConn (33-4) broke a tie with Stanford (2008-12), LSU (2004-08) and itself (2000-04) by reaching the Final Four again.
It was the second straight season that UConn beat Kentucky in the regional finals. The Huskies topped the Wildcats by 15 last year 105 miles to the north of Bridgeport in Kingston, R.I.
This game wasn’t as close. Kentucky stayed close for the first 10 minutes with their 40 minutes of dread defense. Then UConn turned up its own defensive intensity.
The Huskies trailed 23-22 with just 9 minutes left in the first half. That’s when Stewart – honored as the outstanding player of the Bridgeport Regional – and UConn’s no-name defense took over allowing three points the rest of the half.
We’re either right on point, we do everything right or we get a little bit off kilter and lose our composure a little bit, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. Once we got into our rhythm and our tempo, we just played good basketball.
Kentucky missed 13 of its final 14 shots in the half with the only make coming when Jelleah Sidney banked in a 3-pointer from the wing.
While UConn was playing lockdown defense, Stewart was dominating on the offensive end.
The 6-foot-4 star, who was the national high school player of the year last season, scored nine points and had a vicious two-handed block during that closing run.
After Sidney’s three-pointer, Stewart calmly converted a three-point play on the other end. UConn led 48-26 at the half.
Kentucky couldn’t get within 20 in the second half.
The loudest cheer of the night from the sellout crowd of nearly 8,600 came when the video board showed highlights of Louisville’s upset victory over Baylor on Sunday night.
UConn’s only losses this season came to Baylor and three times to Notre Dame.