In about a month, UConn will have an answer for those who predicted months ago it would add a ninth national championship to the collection.
Give them time. The Huskies are working on it.
The Huskies’ quarterfinal in its first American Athletic Conference was simply the first step in a process they hope ends holding scissors on a step ladder after the national championship.
One down, eight to go.
And as expected, Cincinnati provided gumption but no true obstacle. The Huskies beat the Bearcats, 72-42, at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Next for the Huskies (32-0) is No. 4 Rutgers (22-8) which defeated SMU, 68-49, in Saturday’s first quarterfinal.
UConn was led by sophomore Breanna Stewart, the newly anointed AAC player of the year. She scored 13 of her game-high 22 points in the first half when the Huskies took a 37-17 lead.
Bria Hartley added 17 points and five assists. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 12 points and Stefanie Dolson chipped in 10 points, nine rebounds.
The fun-loving Dolson also improvised a move mimicking Auriemma, forced dance out of the way to get away from falling players in front of his bench during the second half.
Jeanise Randolph led Cincinnati with 14 points, shooting 6-for-11. The Bearcats (13-18)
The Huskies have beaten Rutgers twice this season by a combined 67 points. On March 1 at Gampel Pavilion, UConn celebrated Senior Day with a 72-35 win.
The Scarlet Knights were without sophomore Kahleah Copper (turf toe) in the last meeting. She scored 20 against the Huskies in the game first game at the Rutgers Athletic Center. Copper led the Scarlet Knights with 22 against SMU.
UConn had defeated Cincinnati by a combined 90 points in their two regular-season games, including a 57-point drubbing at First Third Arena on Jan. 1.
By that time, Cincinnati no longer had its ignition switch – guard Dayeesha Hollins – who left the program in late January after appearing in 16 of UC’s 18 games. She was their leading scorer (13.3) at the time, a two-time all-conference second-team selection has totaled 1,088 points.
And the Bearcats offense was never able to truly compensate, although Friday’s 54-52 first-round win over Central Florida did offer some consolation for another frustrating (13-18) season. They last eight of their last 11 games after Hollins left.
But Cincinnati plays hard for Elliott, one of the grittiest UConn players ever and just one of the five with 1,000 rebounds.
And for the first 10 minutes the Bearcats were in the small area code, an accomplish not to be underestimated in this season of AAC routs.
When Jeanise Randolph scored with 10:07 to play in the first half, UConn’s lead was just 17-13. But it would be another 5:36 before the Bearcats would score again.
It was during that drought UConn broke the game open. Stewart scored six of the next 10 points to increase the lead to 27-13 before Alyesha Lovett’s hoop gave the Bearcats some air.
After that, it was Mosqueda-Lewis’ turn. Held scoreless in the first 16 minutes, she started with two free throws and ended the half scoring seven of UConn’s last 10 points to redirect the focus to again to Rutgers.