By Carl Adamec
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team didn’t reach its goals during the regular season and Big East tournament.
But the Huskies now stand two wins away from their ultimate goal.
Freshman Breanna Stewart had 21 points and was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player as No. 1 UConn advanced to a record sixth straight Final Four by routing second-seeded Kentucky 83-53 Monday night in the NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional final at sold-out Webster Bank Arena.
UConn (33-4) will face the Norfolk (Va.) Regional champion, either Notre Dame or Duke, in a national semifinal game Sunday at New Orleans Arena.
The Huskies broke a tie with themselves (2000-04), LSU (2004-08), and Stanford (2008-12) at five straight Final Four bids. Stanford was eliminated from the 2013 tourney by Georgia in the Sweet 16.
UConn fifth-year seniors Caroline Doty and Heather Buck join LSU’s Khalilah Mitchell and Marian Whitfield as the only players in NCAA history to be on five Final Four rosters.
The Huskies’ Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kelly Faris joined Stewart on the all-regional team, which was rounded out by Kentucky’s Jennifer O’Neill and Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne.
Kentucky (30-6), which was seeking its first Final Four berth, played UConn tough for the first 11 minutes and led 23-22 before the Huskies turned into another gear.
If UConn has had a better stretch this season, it would be hard to find it.
Doty got it started with a 3-pointer with 8:51 left in the half. Faris then scored six of the next 10 points and Stewart got the following four. After Jelleah Sidney banked in a trey to make it 39-26, the Huskies got nine unanswered points to cap the 26-3 and lead 48-26 at halftime.
UConn led by as many as 36 in the second half.
Joining Stewart in double figures were Mosqueda-Lewis (17), Faris (12), Moriah Jefferson (10) and Bria Hartley (10).
Stefanie Dolson, playing with a stress fracture in her right ankle, played 24 minutes and had two points, 11 rebounds, and four assists.
A’dia Mathies had 14 points for Kentucky.