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Kentucky's Kastine Evans, left, and Connecticut's Kelly Faris, right, scramble for the ball during the second half of a regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday, April 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Kentucky’s Kastine Evans, left, and Connecticut’s Kelly Faris, right, scramble for the ball during the second half of a regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday, April 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut is headed back to a familiar place – the Final Four.

Breanna Stewart scored 21 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 17 to help top-seed UConn rout Kentucky 83-53 on Monday night and advance to a record sixth-straight national semifinal.

The Huskies will face either Notre Dame or Duke in the national semifinals on Sunday in New Orleans. The Irish and Blue Devils play Tuesday night. UConn (33-4) broke a tie with Stanford (2008-12), LSU (2004-08) and itself (2000-04) by reaching the Final Four again.

It was the second straight season that UConn beat Kentucky in the regional finals. The Huskies topped the Wildcats by 15 last year 105 miles to the north of Bridgeport in Kingston, R.I.

This game wasn’t as close. Kentucky stayed close for the first 10 minutes with their “40 minutes of dread” defense. Then UConn turned up its own defensive intensity.

The Huskies trailed 23-22 with just 9 minutes left in the first half. That’s when Stewart – honored as the outstanding player of the Bridgeport Regional – and UConn’s “no-name” defense took over allowing three points the rest of the half. Kentucky missed 13 of its final 14 shots in the half with the only make coming when Jelleah Sidney banked in a 3-pointer from the wing.

While UConn was playing lockdown defense, Stewart was dominating on the offensive end. The 6-foot-4 star, who was the national high school player of the year last season, scored nine points and had a vicious two-handed block during that closing run.

After Sidney’s 3-pointer, Stewart calmly converted a three-point play on the other end. UConn led 48-26 at the half.

Kentucky couldn’t get within 20 in the second half.

The loudest cheer of the night from the sellout crowd of nearly 8,600 came when the video board showed highlights of Louisville’s upset victory over Baylor on Sunday night.

UConn’s only losses this season came to Baylor and three times to Notre Dame.

Stewart didn’t play well in most of those losses, but really has stepped her game up over the past few weeks. After struggling through the middle part of the season, the heralded first-year has averaged 16.4 points since the start of the Big East tournament.

It’s been an unusual season for UConn, which for the first time in 19 years didn’t win either the Big East regular season or tournament title. Now the Huskies are two wins away from an eighth national championship.

This was the 19th time in the past 23 seasons that UConn had reached the regional final. They have made the Final Four 14 times overall, including the last six.

None of the regional final games during this current run have been close with only Rutgers coming within 10 in 2008. UConn’s lead ballooned to 36 points in the second half of this game. When the final buzzer sounded Mosqueda-Lewis jumped into the arms of Stewart to celebrate.

Coach Geno Auriemma got a gritty effort out of junior center Stefanie Dolson, who has a stress fracture in her right ankle and an injured left foot as well. She wore a brace on her left leg and a compression sock on her right one. While she only scored two points, she had 11 rebounds and four assists.

The loss brought to a close a record year for the Wildcats (30-5). Kentucky had the most victories in school history. Not bad for a school rich in basketball tradition on the men’s side. Still coach Matthew Mitchell was left searching for the school’s first trip to the Final Four.

The Wildcats have made the NCAA tournament in each of the past four seasons and reached the regional finals in three of those years falling short each time.

Senior A’dia Mathies, the two-time SEC player of the year, had a quiet game scoring only 14 points with 11 of them coming in the second half. Kastine Evans, who hit the big 3-pointer to help beat Delaware in the regional semifinals had just two points on 1 of 9 shooting. Her older brother R.J., who played on the UConn’s men’s basketball team this season, sat behind the Wildcats bench in a Kentucky shirt.

The Huskies have won 43 of their past 44 NCAA games in the state of Connecticut, including going 9-1 in Bridgeport. The lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.

UCONN 83, KENTUCKY 53

KENTUCKY (30-6): O’Neill 5-12 2-3 13, Mathies 4-9 4-6 14, Stallworth 4-12 1-2 9, Walker 0-1 2-2 2, Evans 1-9 0-0 2, Thompson 1-5 0-0 2, Pinkett 0-1 0-0 0, Sidney 2-5 0-0 5, Goss 2-8 2-2 6, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0, Bishop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-62 11-15 53.

UCONN (33-4): Doty 1-1 0-0 3, Mosqueda-Lewis 6-11 2-3 17, Stewart 8-14 5-6 21, Dolson 1-4 0-0 2, Faris 3-4 6-6 12, Tuck 1-3 4-4 6, Jefferson 5-7 0-0 10, Hartley 3-10 4-4 10, Buck 0-1 0-0 0, Stokes 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 29-56 21-23 83.

Halftime_UConn 48-26. 3-Point Goals_Kentucky 4-16 (Mathies 2-3, Sidney 1-3, O’Neill 1-4, Stallworth 0-1, Thompson 0-1, Goss 0-2, Evans 0-2), UConn 4-11 (Mosqueda-Lewis 3-6, Doty 1-1, Tuck 0-1, Stewart 0-1, Hartley 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Kentucky 33 (Stallworth 8), UConn 41 (Dolson 11). Assists_Kentucky 9 (Evans 3), UConn 12 (Dolson 4). Total Fouls_Kentucky 20, UConn 18. A_8,594.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

12 Responses to UConn women rout Kentucky, advance to Final Four

  • BobbyBlue says:

    Bummer….I understand why..trying to boost ticket sales and interest,but its certainly not fair for so many top teams to be allowed to play this close to home.

    • larryvaught says:

      I agree, and seems UConn always gets that huge edge. Women have to fix that to really promote game

  • Larry Pup says:

    It is hard to take that UConn is that much better than UK. The gals have had a good year though. This was a kick in the teeth.

  • eddie says:

    i’m not being mean or anything kudos to the UK lady cats BUT!!!! you will never get the resepct that the men does because they win the tough games 9 times out of ten to get where they are going and what they need to be a powerhouse. yes they were blessed to have a HUGE tradition in winning early on when coach rupp was coaching the team and having the 9 championships as long and the SEC championships to boot you cannot be scared to of what the other jersy says you carry the whole state of kentucky when you go out there they love youand always will but to noticed you need to start a tradition and a legacy that will make people go WOW those lady cats are somthing to deal with and it’s all about the next level and making it to the next level don’t be scared of it embrace it with all you got i believe you can and sorry to say you will be a second fiddle to the men next year but i will admit the lady cats did things the men could not this season not being mean just laying out there and a ahuge cat fan we love you and support you but like isa id it’s all about reaching the next level.

  • UKFAN197TONE says:

    This game got ugly quick. Once the jumpers stopped falling, it was over. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (not that it’s a secret or not obvious) but UK does not have the size, speed or talent that UConn has; or Baylor, ND, etc. YES, they can beat the UTs and NEB every now and again, but the BIG GIRLS, NO.

    UK plays that “40 minutes of dread” defense, but a TALL/BIG girl is what they need. UK was destroyed by Baylor and again by UConn (is it a rule to put UK in UConns backyard…err…bracket?). BOTH have big/tall girls inside. Then again, it doesn’t hurt that those teams have really talented players.

  • Jim Boyers says:

    Congrats to the ladies on a great season.

    It’s extremely hard (borderline impossible) to beat a historically great team, on what, for all intents and purposes, is their own floor, after only a day of prep and rest.

    Is this going to be a Final Four for the Loserville women too? Talk about an incredible 3 month stretch for an athletic program: Stomping Flori-duh in a BCS bowl game and then the men’s and women’s teams making the Final Four. I’m not jealous, but I am hoping we mirror that type of achievement in the coming years. We have the coaches to do it.

    • Kokamo Joe says:

      The UL upset of Baylor was one for the ages. I can’t see UL upsetting a second team tonight. Tennessee will likely beat them.

      But think about this. This state has two women’s basketball teams that made the Great 8, and I think that is quite an accomplishment. We also have two fine baseball teams.

      You make a good point. Having one program shine causes the other to try even harder. That has to help both UK and UL. I am especially hopeful that Stoops will move football forward. I’d love to see improvement this year, and by his third year I’d love to see UK compete with and be capable of beating UL as well as the mid level SEC teams.

      Now, Western appears on the verge of moving up in basketball. Kansas had a tough time with them. I would love to see Western regain some of it’s past glory.

  • P90XDude says:

    UConn’s size was a telling difference – they had at least 3 gals taller than any player we have – size matters and it is the same in the men’s game – Mitchell must get some gals with size, period. UK Hoops still had a great year winning 30 games for the first time.

  • John says:

    I am a women’s basketball fan. I have watched most of the games. One announcer had it right. Until you get some quality officiating the women’s game will not be taken seriously. The announcers again last night were appalled that fouls against UConn were not called OR called incorrectly. It may not have made a difference in the game, but the officiating last night was a joke. I know the coaches and players are not allowed to say anything, but, this was blatant.

    • Karen Sprinkle says:

      When Mathies picked up her third foul in the first half on a phantom foul, I couldn’t stand to watch the “game” any longer. The officiating throughout college basketball has been sub-par in my opinion. That’s not to take anything away from UConn–they adjusted well to how the game was being called (or not called) and played to their strengths. Thanks to A’dia and Brittney for four years of inspired play. You leave Kentucky as the winning class in the history of UK women’s basketball, and paved the way for success.

      • UKFAN197TONE says:

        When Doris Burke (the female version of Dukey V) started commending UConn on their toughness, it was almost a warning. A warning that worse things were coming.

  • Ira says:

    Great job on your season. Know the gals wanted to finish with the title. But they just got to keep moving forward. Learn from this experience and and take tomorrow off and start the next season on Thursday.

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