UConn women beat Maryland to reach regional final

Huskies freshmen step up

Connecticut forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, right, lines up a shot against Maryland guard Katie Rutan (40) during the second half of a women's NCAA college basketball regional semifinal in Bridgeport, Conn., Saturday, March 30, 2013. Mosqueda-Lewis scored 17 points as Connecticut won 76-50. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Connecticut forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, right, lined up a shot Saturday afternoon. (AP)
AP

UConn 76
Maryland 50

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Connecticut’s youngest players have the Huskies back in an old and familiar spot.

Freshmen Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck combined for 35 points as UConn (32-4) advanced to its eighth straight regional final with a 76-50 blowout of Maryland Saturday.

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‘‘I think we were 16 for 28 from the floor, our freshmen,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ‘‘One turnover between the three of them. I thought they were the key to the game today for sure.’’

Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis each had 17 points to lead the Huskies. Stewart also had eight rebounds and four blocked shots.

Jefferson made several key defensive stops and her two fast-break layups capped a 9-0 run to start the second half, giving UConn a 44-26 lead and control of the game.

‘‘We got in a nice offensive flow,’’ she said. ‘‘Once the transition game came, then the offensive flow was right there.’’

Her layup midway through the half stretched the lead to 60-38. She finished with 10 points and Tuck had 8 as the Huskies bench outscored Maryland’s, 25-0.

‘‘They didn’t play like freshmen at all,’’ center Stefanie Dolson said. ‘‘They came out confident and ready to play. They knew what they needed to do for our team and what they can do.’’

Two-time ACC player of the year Alyssa Thomas, who had scored 29 and 28 points in the team’s first two tournament games, was held to 13 for Maryland, which finished its season at 26-8. Tianna Hawkins and Chloe Pavlech each had 11 points for the Terps.

Maryland trailed, 35-26, at the half and went scoreless for the first three minutes after intermission, allowing UConn to blow open the game.

‘‘I thought we'd come out of the locker room with a lot more energy,’’ Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. ‘‘They came with a knockout punch in the second half.’’

The Huskies will play Kentucky on Monday night in a rematch of last year’s regional final, which was played just over 100 miles away in Kingston, R.I. UConn won that game, 80-65.

The Wildcats beat Delaware, 69-62, earlier Saturday.

UConn will be playing in a regional final for the 19th time. The Huskies have made five consecutive trips to the Final Four and are seeking their eighth national title.

It was the second win over Maryland this season for UConn. The Huskies won by 15 points in the Jimmy V Classic in December. Thomas had just 6 points in that game, and the Huskies held the Terps to just 48 points, their lowest output this season. They also were outrebounded, 39-35, one of just five times that happened this season.

Maryland came into the game ranked second in the nation in rebounding margin, grabbing more than 14 more boards per game than its opponents. The Terps had outrebounded opponents in 32 of their first 33 games. But UConn won that battle this time around, 41-36.

‘‘We were really looking forward to getting back on the court,’’ Stewart said.

UConn is 44-4 in NCAA Tournament games played in the state and 8-1 in Bridgeport.

UConn’s lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.