Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson were part of the top incoming recruiting class in the nation this season. Like most freshmen at this level of women’s college basketball, they endured their peaks and valleys for UConn.
But as the quest for an NCAA record-tying eighth national championship heats up for the top-seeded Huskies, Stewart and Jefferson are playing at a high level. Stewart had 17 points, eight rebounds, three steals and four blocks and Jefferson finished with 10 points, three assists and two steals in a 76-50 victory over fourth-seeded Maryland Saturday in the Bridgeport regional semifinals before a sellout crowd of 8,594 at Webster Bank Arena.
UConn (32-4) will face second-seeded Kentucky (30-5) in the regional final Monday at Webster Bank Arena. It will be a rematch of the 2012 Kingston regional final, an 80-65 win by the Huskies.
Behind 19 points and four assists from Jennifer O’Neil, the Wildcats defeated sixth-seeded Delaware 69-62 in the first game Saturday.
The Huskies have advanced to the regional final for the eighth straight season and the 19th overall (13-5).
Maryland (26-8) was looking to advance to the regional final for the fifth time in the last seven years.
STAR OF THE GAME: Moriah Jefferson. She had 10 points (5-of-8 FG), three assists, two steals and zero turnovers in 26 minutes off the bench.
KEY TO THE WIN: The Huskies had runs of 13-3 and 12-1 in the first half as they opened a 35-26 lead at halftime. They then opened the second half with a 19-6 run to put the game away. … The Huskies held Maryland to 30.3 percent shooting in the first half and 31.1 percent in the game … Maryland All-American Alyssa Thomas had 13 points (4-of-16 FG).
WORTH NOTING: The Huskies improved to 19-2 all-time in the regional semifinals. … The Huskies have won 23 straight games against ACC opponents dating back to an 82-76 loss to North Carolina Jan. 15, 2007. They have two wins over Maryland during this streak, also winning 63-48 at the XL Center Dec. 3. … UConn coach Geno Auriemma was hit with a technical foul with 7.5 seconds left in the half after a no-call on a drive to the basket by Kelly Faris. Thomas made both free throws and Tianna Hawkins followed with a 3-pointer for Maryland. … Bridgeport mayor Bill Finch gave Geno a key to the city during dinner at Marisa’s in Trumbull Friday. He also declared Friday as UConn women’s basketball day in the city.
NEXT: NCAA Bridgeport regional final Monday vs. Kentucky at Webster Bank Arena, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)