Tipping Off: Reaching the Sweet 16 commonplace for UConn

NEW YORK (AP) Reaching the Sweet 16 seems to be a rite of spring for Geno Auriemma the UConn Huskies.

They've made the regional semifinals in 24 consecutive years. Still, the Hall of Fame coach takes nothing for granted, despite winning 109 consecutive games and four straight national championships.

''We talked about this weekend is a tough weekend, and everybody talks about the Final Four and how great it is to get to the Final Four and play in the Final Four and play for a national championship,'' Auriemma said. ''But this weekend is a tough weekend because it took a long time, took 12 months to get back to this spot, and could be over tomorrow at 4.''

The Huskies will face UCLA on Saturday after Maryland and Oregon play each other in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

In the Stockton Regional, No. 1 South Carolina meets the tournament surprise 12th-seeded Quinnipiac. Oregon State and Florida State play in the other semifinal.

''We are fortunate enough that we have been able to advance to three back-to-back to back Sweet 16s,'' Seminoles coach Sue Semrau said. ''So we can learn, but we certainly can't think back on to that, or think about what could be or what should be. We've got to focus on a very good Oregon State team.''

Here are a few other story lines from the Sweet 16:

CHALK TALK: The top seeds reigned supreme in the women's NCAA Tournament on Friday night. No. 1s Notre Dame and Baylor cruised to surprisingly easy wins while No. 2s Stanford and Mississippi State also earned victories, setting up 1-vs-2 matchups in Lexington, Kentucky, and Oklahoma City on Sunday.

Baylor has won its first three games by 163 combined points - the most ever in tournament history, passing UConn's record mark of 158 last season.

RESPECT FOR QUINNIPIAC: Oregon State coach Scott Rueck wasn't surprised that UConn coach Geno Auriemma wore a Quinnipiac shirt to practice on Friday.

''I think that's him tipping his cap to a program that's doing it right in every which way, every way that he respects,'' Rueck said.

Quinnipiac is in the Stockton Regional, playing in the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. The Bobcats also played Rueck's squad in December, losing to the Beavers 75-60.

''I was not familiar with them until, really, this year, because we played them in December. And researched her and had her Wikipedia up (laughs). And who is she and why is this team so good?'' Rueck said. ''It was kind of funny, because we went down to shake hands with her, and she said, `Oh, it's great to meet you.' I'm like, `Me? How about you?' I'm like, `I'm excited to meet you,' and all the things that she's accomplished.''

FAMILIAR FOE: Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer was an assistant at Arkansas while Washington's Mike Neighbors was the director of operations for women's basketball there from 1999 to 2001.

Their teams face off Friday in the Sweet 16.

Schaefer is impressed with Neighbors' career success. This is the third straight year Neighbors has led the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament, including a Final Four trip last year.

''He does a tremendous job,'' Schaefer said. ''He's one of the great coaches in our country. I have to throw in he's one of the great young coaches as well, because he's ten years younger than me.''

Neighbors said Schaefer remain connected and share information.

''Obviously Vic and I are very, very close friends, and I spent three days in Starkville (Mississippi) last summer talking about offense, and so there's no secrets. He knows exactly what we're going to do and not even what, but how we're going to do it.''

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AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma City contributed to this story.

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