By Matt Zampini, Sports Editor
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said this 2014-15 UConn team has the closest team chemistry, on and off the court, since she arrived at Storrs four years ago.
UConn (30-1) had six players score in double figures in Saturday’s quarterfinals matchup against the Cincinnati Bearcats as the Huskies went on to an easy 93-34 win.
“I think the fact that we are able to spend so much time together and have so many different personalities and really make it work for us is something that helps us on the court,” Mosqueda-Lewis said.
The win cemented UConn’s 27th straight league tournament semifinal, dating back to their days in the Big East. It also secured UConn’s 10th straight 30-win season, which is an NCAA record.
Mosqueda-Lewis, who entered the game leading the country in 3-point field goal percentage, came out firing from deep. The senior hit three 3-pointers early in the half to help the Huskies jump out to a 25-11 lead. The senior had 18 points at halftime to lead all scorers.
“I think as a shooter you know that you’re hot obviously when the ball starts going in. I think it’s just the feeling you have, I felt really confident every time I took a shot in the beginning in the first half,” Mosqueda-Lewis said.
The Huskies held the Bearcats to just 23 percent shooting at the half, and thanks to Mosqueda-Lewis’ hot 3-point shooting; the Huskies went on a 27-4 run to end the first half, extending UConn’s lead to 49-15 at the break.
As they have done numerous times this season, the Huskies jumped on the Bearcats to open the second half to ensure Cincinnati had no chance to mount a comeback. Morgan Tuck scored a quick seven points to start the half as UConn went on a 14-2 run to open the lead to 63-17.
The Bearcats (8-22) were able to muster up 19 points in the second half, but UConn was just too good Saturday evening. Makenzie Cann and Chelsea Jamison led Cincinnati in scoring with eight points each. A day before scoring a career-high 23 points on six 3-pointers, Cann was held to just two threes.
Breanna Stewart finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, and in the process passed Stefanie Dolson and Tiffany Hayes into 12th place on the all-time scoring list.
Tuck, Gabby Williams and Moriah Jefferson each scored 12 points. UConn shot 56 percent from the field for the game and had 26 assists on 37 made shots.
As efficient as the Huskies were on offense, they were just as tough on defense. UConn forced Cincinnati to commit 17 turnovers, which the Huskies scored 23 points off.
“I’ve never seen that type of pressure my whole life,” Bearcats’ freshman guard Ana Owens said of Jefferson’s defense.
Kiah Stokes added three blocks on Saturday and now has 306 for her career. Stokes passed Tina Charles into third place on the all-time blocks list.
Cincinnati head coach Jamelle Elliot knew that this would be a tough matchup for her young team. The Bearcats are comprised mostly of freshman and sophomores, and during the two prior matchups this season; Cincinnati had been outscored by an average of 62.5 points.
“UConn is the No. 1 team in the country for a reason,” Elliot said. “I know Geno well and I know this tournament is a prelude for the NCAA tournament. He’s trying to get his guys ready for NCAA tournament time.”
UConn has now won 40 straight games in conference play dating back to last season.