UConn wins American for 3rd straight year, 77-51 over USF
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) Top-ranked UConn remains unbeaten in the history of American Athletic Conference play after winning their third straight tournament title in a rout.
Breanna Stewart scored 22 points and blocked seven shots as the Huskies beat No. 21 South Florida 77-51 on Monday night.
Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson added 13 points and a season-high seven rebounds for the Huskies (32-0), who extended the third longest streak in team and NCAA women's Division I history to 69 games.
''Every time we play a team that is supposed to be really, really good, we play better, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ''These players love to play against good players. They love to play against good teams.''
Courtney Williams had 14 of her 16 points in the second half for USF (23-9), which fell for the second consecutive year in the championship game.
The Huskies are 54-0 in the regular season and 9-0 in tournament games against AAC teams since the league was formed, winning all by double digits.
The closest call was an 84-70 win over South Florida in last year's conference final.
The Bulls kept this one close for a half.
Williams opened the scoring with a jumper from the right baseline and the Bulls led 14-13 after a quarter. It was the fourth time the Huskies have trailed after 10 minutes this season, and the third time in just over a week.
The Huskies took their first lead at 20-17 when Morgan Tuck found Stewart under the basket with 6:48 left in the first half and she was fouled.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Samuelson, one from each corner, gave the Huskies their first double-digit lead at 32-19.
Samuelson scored 46 points in the tournament and hit 17 of her 28 shots from the floor.
''I think it was really important for me to kind of show my teammates they could count on me and to just show that the coaches can count on me and that I'm ready to go,'' the freshman said. ''I think I did show that and I'm excited to keep it going going forward.''
The Huskies hit 10 of their 18 shots in the quarter, outscored USF 23-10 and led 36-24 at halftime.
Williams took just one shot in the first half, thanks in part to a smothering defensive effort by Moriah Jefferson. She scored 10 points in the third quarter, but hit just seven of her 18 shots in the game.
''We take a lot of pride in playing defense,'' Stewart said. ''We know that we can score points and offense comes easier to us than other teams.''
A layup and 3-point basket by Kia Nurse on consecutive possessions keyed a 9-0 run that gave the Huskies a 47-28 lead. South Florida pulled the deficit back to 14 before the Huskies scored the final four points of the quarter to give UConn a 19-point lead.
''A 10- or 12-point game can get to 20 quick, and that's what it did,'' said South Florida coach Jose Fernandez.
Jefferson finished with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists. Tuck chipped in with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Huskies outscored USF 40-20 in the paint.
Laura Ferreira and Alisia Jenkins each had 12 points for South Florida. The Bulls' Kitija Laksa, the conference freshman of the year, returned from an ankle injury that saw her miss the previous five games. She scored just three points in 24 minutes.
The conference championship is the 21st for the Huskies, who won 18 Big East titles.
South Florida: The Bulls are now 0-20 against UConn, 0-8 since the inception of the AAC. They are have lost at total of eight games to other league opponents since the formation of the conference. They lost to UConn 75-59 in Tampa in January and 79-59 a week ago in Storrs, a game in which the Huskies trailed at halftime for the only time this year.
UConn: The Huskies 69-game streak is just one win shy of the second longest streak in school history set from November 2001 to March 2003. UConn also owns the longest streak at 90 games from November 2008 to December, 2010.
MOP: Stewart won her second American Athletic Conference most outstanding player award. She won her first as a sophomore in 2014. Former Husky star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was named the most outstanding player a year ago.
South Florida: Awaits NCAA Tournament bid
UConn: Expected to be the top seed in the NCAA Tournament when bids are announced next week.