Friday, January 19, 2018
Sports

UConn women clobber Kentucky, return to Final Four

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Geno Auriemma and his Connecticut Huskies are headed back to a familiar place: the Final Four.

Breanna Stewart scored 21 and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 17 to help top-seeded UConn rout Kentucky 83-53 on Monday night and advance to a record sixth straight national semifinal.

"It definitely doesn't get old," UConn senior Kelly Faris said. "Each year is different, special in its own way. This is our last go-around, we want to go out with a bang. I'm fortunate to be part of this program where we make it every year. We never are satisfied until we get to that final game."

The Huskies will face Notre Dame or Duke in the national semifinals on Sunday in New Orleans. The Irish and Blue Devils play tonight.

"Anytime you're fortunate to play in the Final Four you're going to have to beat two great teams," Auriemma said. "You don't stumble your way into the Final Four, that's for sure. Whoever we play Sunday, that's our main focus right now. After Sunday we'll play on Tuesday or we're going home. Right now we have a great chance to win a national championship."

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 UConn beat Kentucky in the region finals.

Kentucky (30-6) stayed close for the first 10 minutes with its "40 minutes of dread" defense. Then UConn turned up its own defensive intensity.

The Huskies trailed 23-22 with nine minutes left in the first half. That's when Stewart, honored as the outstanding player of the Bridgeport Region, and UConn's "no-name" defense took over, allowing three points the rest of the half.

Mosqueda-Lewis said that Auriemma tells his defense to be like "sharks," so that's what the Huskies have become on defense.

"When there's blood in the water, you smell it and you go after it," she said.

CAL 65, GEORGIA 62, OT: Layshia Clarendon scored 17 of her 25 in the second half and overtime, and the second-seeded Bears rallied from down 10 with less than seven minutes left in regulation in the Spokane Region final to advance to the Final Four for the first time.

The second-seeded Golden Bears (32-3) became the first team from the western U.S. other than Stanford to reach the Final Four since Long Beach State in 1988. They did it with a gritty rally down the stretch and big shots by Clarendon, Afure Jemerigbe and Talia Caldwell.

Cal also won in OT in the tournament's second round, beating USF 82-78 on March 25.

Shacobia Barbee led the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (28-7) with 14 points.

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