AP PHOTO Maryland’s Tianna Hawkins (21) defends a shot by Connecticut’s Kelly Faris during the first half of a women’s regional semifinal in Bridgeport, Conn., Saturday.
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Breanna Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis each scored 17 points, leading top-seeded Connecticut over Maryland 76-50 on Saturday in the Bridgeport regional semifinals.
Stewart got help from fellow freshmen Moriah Jefferson, 10 points, and Morgan Tuck, eight points, in sending the top-seeded Huskies (32-4) to their eighth straight NCAA regional final.
Alyssa Thomas, who had averaged 28.5 points in the tournament, had 13 to lead Maryland, which finished its season at 26-8. Tianna Hawkins and Chloe Pavlech each had 11 points for the Terps.
UConn led 35-26 at halftime, then opened the second half on a 9-0 run.
The Huskies will play Kentucky in on Monday night in a rematch of last year’s regional final, which was played just over 100 miles away in Kingston, R.I.
The Wildcats beat Delaware 69-62 earlier Saturday.
Connecticut will be playing in a regional final for the 19th time. The Huskies have made five consecutive trips to the Final Four and are seeking their eighth national title.
Connecticut’s freshmen were not part of any of that. But they were the difference in this one.
Stewart pulled down nine rebounds and also blocked four shots.
Jefferson made several key defensive stops and her two fast-break layups capped the early second half run that pushed UConn’s lead to 18 at 44-26 and gave the Huskies control of the game.
Her blow-by layup midway through the half stretched the lead to 60-38.
UConn’s reserves outscored Maryland’s 25-0.
It was the second win over Maryland this season for UConn. The Huskies won by 15 points in the Jimmy V Classic in December. Thomas had just six points in that game, and the Huskies held the Terps to just 48 points, their lowest output this season. They also were outrebounded 39-35, one of just five times that happened this season.
Maryland came into the game ranked second in the nation in rebounding margin, grabbing more than 14 more boards per game than their opponents. They had outrebounded opponents in 32 of their 33 games.
UConn won that battle this time around 41-36.
Stefanie Dolson had 10 to go with nine points.
Maryland hit just seven of its first 23 shots, but was 4 of 7 from 3-point range during that span, and trailed just 23-20 midway through the first half.
But 3-pointers from Bria Hartley and Kelly Faris pushed the lead to nine, and started a 12-1 run.
The Huskies looked as if they were about to extend that further, when Faris drove to the basket and appeared to take a hard foul. But there was no whistle, infuriating coach Geno Auriemma, who received a technical foul.
Thomas made one of two foul shots, then hit a jump shot that cut the lead to nine, 35-26, at halftime.
UConn outrebounded Maryland 24-20 in the first half.
UConn is now 44-4 in NCAA Tournament games played in the state and 8-1 in Bridgeport.
UConn’s lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.
Maryland was in its 10th regional semifinal and looking to make back-to-back trips to the regional final despite losing three players this season to ACL injuries, including the expected starting backcourt, guards Brene Moseley and Laurin Mincy.
UConn beat Kentucky last year 80-65 in the Kingston regional. Kentucky forward Samarie Walker said the Wildcats view this year’s regional as a second chance.
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The Kentucky Wildcats and their “40 minutes of dread” were too much for Elena Delle Donne and Delaware.
Jennifer O’Neill scored 19 points and A’dia Mathies added 16 to help Kentucky hold off the Blue Hens 69-62 on Saturday in the Bridgeport regional semifinals, bringing to an end the stellar career of Delle Donne.
It’s the second straight season that Kentucky (30-5) has advanced to the regional final. The Wildcats, who already have a school record for victories, lost to Connecticut last season by 15 points.
Delle Donne had 33 points for Delaware (32-4) and finished her career as the fifth all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,039 points. She passed former stars Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw and Maya Moore on Saturday.
She finished well short of Jackie Stiles’ all-time scoring mark of 3,393 set at Southwest Missouri State from 1998-2001.
There’s little doubt that Delle Donne would have broken it had she not missed 22 games in her career. The 6-foot-5 star who is averaging 26.6 points in her career sat out six games this season with a reoccurrence of the symptoms of Lyme disease that forced her to miss a dozen games two years ago.
She did all she could to take Delaware to the regional final. Trailing by 14 early in the second half, the Blue Hens cut their deficit to 62-60 with 2:47 left on a jumper by Delle Donne that touched nearly every part of the rim before dropping in. That shot moved her past Moore and sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy.
But Kastine Evans calmly responded with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 65-60. Jaquetta May had three chances at putbacks on the other end, but couldn’t convert.
Delle Donne exited with 10 seconds left and had a long embrace with coach Tina Martin.
The second-seeded Wildcats will play the winner of Connecticut and Maryland on Monday with a trip to New Orleans and the Final Four on the line.
Delle Donne had little help in the first half as her teammates struggled from the field. The senior forward did pretty much everything she could to help keep the Blue Hens in the game. She scored 13 straight points as Delaware only trailed 17-15 midway through the first half. Then Kentucky took over scoring the next 10 points. Bria Goss got the run started with a jumper and capped it with a layup that made it 27-17.
The teams then traded baskets the rest of the half with O’Neill hitting a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to make it 41-27.
It was the third straight NCAA game that the Blue Hens trailed at the half. They were able to rally against West Virginia and North Carolina at home and tried their best to pull off another, but the Blue Hens fell just short.
Lauren Carra had a big second half and finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds to provide a second offensive threat for the Blue Hens.
Delaware, which had never made it past the second round before this season, played its first two games at home in front of a loud raucous crowd that included Vice President Joe Biden.
While Biden didn’t make it up to the game Saturday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did. He graduated from Delaware where he met his wife Mary Pat. Christie was wearing a yellow Delaware fleece and took pictures and signed ticket stubs for fans.
The governor’s trip to the game was a lot longer than planned. Trenton was supposed to host the regional until the NCAA moved it in November citing a new law that allowed gambling on college sports in New Jersey. The late switch didn’t seem to impact ticket sales, as Saturday’s session was sold out with nearly 8,600 fans expected to attend each session.
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