Breanna Stewart, top-ranked UConn overwhelm Tulane 96-38
NEW ORLEANS (AP) It took UConn star Breanna Stewart all of 11 seconds to recognize a soft spot in Tulane's zone defense and start exploiting it to devastating effect.
''The middle was wide open and that 10- to 15-foot jump shot - I like shooting that, especially from the middle,'' Stewart said. ''To be able to come in and knock down those shots, if they kept giving them to me, I was going to keep shooting.''
Stewart made her first seven shots in a 20-point performance and top-ranked UConn easily remained unbeaten and won its 58th straight game, 96-38 over Tulane on Wednesday night.
Stewart moved into second in career scoring at UConn with 2,351 points, five ahead of Tina Charles, but still 685 points behind Maya Moore.
''I think I'm staying right where I'm at,'' Stewart, a senior, said when asked about the possibility of passing Moore.
Moriah Jefferson scored 16 points to go with six steals. She moved into third at UConn in career steals with 315, five ahead of Moore.
Gabby Williams had 15 points and Katie Lou Samuelson, 14, for the Huskies (21-0, 11-0 American Athletic Conference), who led wire-to-wire and won by at least 40 points for the 14th time this season.
Tulane struggled to match up with the quick, lanky and accurate Stewart, whose 6-foot-4 height and long arms allowed her to shoot easily over defenders.
''Stewie's really smart. She really sees things and there was a huge gap in the middle of that zone and she found it, and she found it early and she found it often,'' UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ''When Stewie can get the ball in that area, she's about impossible to stop.''
Her first three baskets were mid-range, catch-and-shoot jumpers on UConn's first three possessions. She left the game in the third quarter with her team up by 55.
Leslie Vorpahl scored 11 points and Kolby Morgan, 10, for Tulane (15-7, 6-4), which shot a season-worst 28.8 percent (15 of 52) and turned the ball over 26 times, leading to 41 UConn points.
''They're an amazing team. They did a tremendous job tonight, especially defensively,'' Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said. ''They created so many turnovers and turned defense into offense.
''We could have competed better tonight. I really think we're a better team than that,'' Stockton added. ''They're a team that you really can't take a break against.''
Stewart scored eight of UConn's first 10 points while assisting on the Huskies' other basket, a layup by Morgan Tuck.
Jefferson's steal and breakaway layup gave UConn its first double-digit lead at 12-2 and the Huskies kept piling on from there.
Before nine minutes had elapsed, Stewart had added a pair of three-point plays on layups as she was fouled, giving her 14 points and the Huskies a 25-6 lead.
''When Stewie starts a game the way she started tonight, it just gets us into a really good rhythm,'' Auriemma said.
There were still eight minutes left in the first half when Jefferson's left corner 3 gave UConn its first 30-point lead at 39-8.
Stewart scored 18 of her points in the first half, when she made all six of her shots and all six of her free throws. Playing just 24 minutes in the game, Stewart also had seven assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
Tuck, a 6-2 forward who averages nearly 15 points, finished with 11 in 16 minutes after missing the previous four games with right knee soreness.
''The first couple minutes she didn't quite look herself, but it didn't take very long,'' Auriemma said. ''Just having her out there was really good.''
UConn: The Huskies have now won 98 straight vs. unranked opponents and have won 105 of their last 106 games overall. The 58 in a row is impressive but still far behind the Huskies' 90 straight wins from 2008-11. They also won 70 straight in 2001-03.... UConn improved to 11-0 this season on the road, where its average margin of victory is about 44 points.
Tulane: Tulane fell to 10-3 at home, shooting well below its 45.8 percent accuracy in its 12 previous home games. ... Tulane fell to 0-3 against ranked opponents this season, but its previous two such losses were each by single digits. ... Tulane had not allowed more than 83 points or scored fewer than 51 points in any previous game this season.
UConn: Hosts East Carolina on Saturday.
Tulane: Visits Houston on Saturday.