By Carl Adamec
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team made its first appearance of the year at Webster Bank Arena in the southern part of the state and the Huskies’ freshmen made themselves at home.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 17 points. But it was the play of rookies Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck that gave top-seeded UConn plenty of room for comfort in a 76-50 win over No. 4 Maryland in a NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional semifinal game before a sellout crowd.
The Huskies (32-4) will face second-seeded Kentucky (30-5) for a berth in the Final Four Monday at 7:30 p.m. It’s a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight game in Kingston, R.I. won by UConn.
UConn is 19-2 in Sweet 16 games with eight straight wins.
Stewart also had 17 points and eight rebounds for UConn as she continued her strong play off the bench. Jefferson chipped in 10 points and three assists along with strong defense off the bench while fellow reserve Tuck contributed eight points.
UConn used a 13-3 run to erase Maryland’s last lead and go ahead 21-13. The Terrapins (26-8) pulled back within 23-20 but the Huskies got the next 10 points, 3-pointers by Bria Hartley and Kelly Faris and two hoops by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Two Stewart free throws gave the Huskies their biggest lead of the half at 35-21. It was 35-26 at halftime.
Jefferson started the second-half for fifth-year senior Caroline Doty and her strip of Chloe Pavlech and layup capped a 9-0 run that doubled the lead to 18. Maryland got the next two baskets but a 10-2 run made it 54-32 and the Terrapins got no closer than 18 the rest of the way.
It was the Huskies’ 23rd straight win over Atlantic Coast Conference opponents dating back to a Jan. 15, 2007, loss at North Carolina.
Stefanie Dolson finished with nine points and 10 rebounds but labored through 26 minutes as she struggles with issues in her right ankle and left foot.
All-American Alyssa Thomas had 13 points for Maryland, but was hounded by Big East Defensive Player of the Year Kelly Faris into 4-for-16 shooting from the floor. Thomas was 6-for-28 in two games against UConn this season.
The Huskies out-rebounded Maryland 41-36 and committed just eight turnovers.
Maryland has not been back to the Final Four since winning the 2006 national championship.