There has been more adversity to fight through this season than any season in recent memory for the UConn women’s basketball team.
Through it all, the top-seeded Huskies never lost sight of their goal. They never lowered the expectations. They just dug in and fought. And Monday they reaped the benefits of their determination and grit.
Regional Most Outstanding Player Breanna Stewart had a game-high 21 points and UConn scored 24 points off of 21 turnovers in an 83-53 victory over second-seeded Kentucky in the NCAA Bridgeport regional final before a sellout crowd of 8,594 at Webster Bank Arena. Again, this program is bound for the Final Four.
The Huskies (33-4) have set an NCAA record by reaching the Final Four for the sixth straight season. UConn (2000-04), LSU (2004-08) and Stanford (2008-12) each made five straight Final Four appearances.
The Huskies, who are second all-time with 14 Final Four appearances, will meet the Notre Dame/Duke-winner in the national semifinals Sunday at New Orleans Arena, New Orleans. They are chasing a NCAA record-tying eighth national championship.
Stewart becomes the third UConn freshman to be named the Regional Most Outstanding Player, joining Diana Taurasi (2001) and Maya Moore (2008).
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (17 points) and Kelly Faris (12 points, seven rebounds) were named to the tournament all-regional team for the Huskies. Jennifer O’Neill (Kentucky) and Elena Delle Donne (Delaware) were also named.
Kentucky (30-6) was playing in the regional final for the second straight season and the third time in four years (0-3). UConn also ended the season for the Wildcats in the regional final last season in Kingston, R.I.
STAR OF THE GAME: Breanna Stewart. She finished with 21 points (8-of-14 FG), four rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 30 minutes.
KEY TO THE WIN: Trailing 23-22 with 9:08 left in the first half, the Huskies scored the next 17 points as part of a 26-3 run to end the half. They held Kentucky scoreless for 6:48 and without a field goal for 7:46. … The Wildcats missed 11 straight shots and committed three turnovers during the run.
WORTH NOTING: UConn fifth-year seniors Caroline Doty and Heather Buck are among four players in NCAA history to be members of five Final Four teams (Khalilah Mitchell, Marian Whitfield of LSU from 2004-08). … Stefanie Dolson (ankle, foot) had 11 rebounds and four assists in 24 minutes. … The Huskies improved to 14-5 all-time in the regional final. … The Huskies have won 10 straight games against SEC opponents dating back to a 73-50 loss to LSU in the 2007 NCAA Fresno regional final. … Kentucky is just the third team that the Huskies have faced multiple times in the regional final (LSU, 2000 and 2007; Duke, 2006 and 2011).
NEXT: NCAA national semifinals Sunday vs. Notre Dame/Duke-winner at New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, TBA (ESPN)