Albany, N.Y. – There is good offense, and then way high above that is another level that not many teams are able to reach. UConn reached that level and then some on Saturday afternoon.
Led by Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, the Huskies steamrolled over the fifth-seeded Texas Longhorns 105-54 in the Sweet 16 to advance to the regional final for the 10th consecutive season.
“Today was a lot of fun,” Stewart said. “It seemed like from the start shots were going in and we were being aggressive whether it was Moriah or myself or anyone else on our team, we were being aggressive and taking open shots.”
The 51-point margin was the largest in Sweet 16 history for UConn.
Texas (24-11) was able to stay within reach of UConn for the first nine minutes, as they trailed just 26-19. But then a 7-0 UConn run pushed the lead to 33-19 and caused Texas to call a timeout.
The Huskies kept shooting, and they kept making their shots. UConn ended the half on a 26-5 run to go into halftime with a 52-24 lead.
Stewart led the Huskies at the half with 20 points and 49 of UConn’s 52 points were scored by Stewart, Jefferson, Morgan Tuck and Kaleena-Mosqueda Lewis. Nobody on the bench scored for the Huskies in the first half.
The Huskies came out in the second half on fire. That might be an understatement. It was a classic run to start the second half that we’ve seen so many times this season. The Huskies came out in the second half and gutted its opponent, this time with an 18-4 run.
“I said when we go out in the second half, like we played really well in the first half, I said when we go out in the second half we’re going to play even better than that, Geno Auriemma said. “Whatever that is we’re going to find another gear in the second half.”
Thanks to a bombardment of four 3-pointers by four different players, UConn opened the half on an 18-4 run to extend its lead to 70-28, all but ending any hope Texas had for mounting a comeback and keeping their season alive.
“Those first five, six minutes of the second half, that’s pretty good,” Auriemma said. “I like that.”
UConn didn’t receive point from its bench until 10:10 left in the game when Kiah Stokes was able to score layup inside. The UConn bench finished the game with just 12 points.
As much as the Huskies had balance within the starting lineup, Saturday was all about Stewart and Jefferson.
“It just seemed like they were on a whole different level than everybody else,” Auriemma said.
After missing her first two shots, Stewart finished shooting 11 of 16 from the floor. She scored a NCAA tournament high 31 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
“Breanna shot the ball really well today, from every spot on the floor” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “She’s a matchup nightmare and we don’t have an answer for her.”
Jefferson also notched tournament highs with 25 points (10 of 12 shooting) and seven assists. Stewart and Jefferson (56) combined for more points than Texas had as a team (54).
Morgan Tuck scored 14 points, Mosqueda-Lewis scored 13 and Kia Nurse scored 13.
The Longhorns had nine different players score, but only Ariel Atkins scored in double figures (11 points). UConn held the Longhorns to 34.4 percent shooting and they finished with 20 points in the paint.
The Huskies finished the game shooting 55.7 percent (41.9 percent from three).
Texas led the rebounding battle in the first half 21-19, but the Huskies controlled the glass in the second half to outrebound Texas 42-35 for the game.
UConn’s 105 points are one shy of a season high of the 106 scored in the American Athletic Conference tournament on March 8.
Auriemma notched his 100th NCAA tournament win as UConn’s head coach. He joins Pat Summitt (114) as the only two coaches to reach that mark.