Huskies advance to Sweet 16 with win over Vanderbilt
For the 20th straight time the UConn women's basketball team will advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament after a 77-44 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores.
The Huskies victory was backed by an explosive second half and the exceptional play of freshman forward Breanna Stewart. In her first NCAA Tournament game, Stewart led her team in total points with 14. She also recorded three blocks and grabbed five rebounds in the victory and looked comfortable in her first taste of tournament play in a Husky uniform.
"I just enjoyed being out there and being able to play," said Stewart. "It's been a while since I've played the game personally and I think there was a little bit of nerves because it was the first NCAA Tournament game for me but I got comfortable pretty quickly."
For the second game in a row, it took the Huskies just four seconds to score when senior guard Kelly Faris scored UConn's first points of the game. The Huskies started on a 10-0 run and held Vanderbilt from scoring a field goal until the 4:20 mark of the first half.
The Commodores kept the score close for most of the first half and came within five points of UConn's lead until Stewart drained a 3-pointer, which put the Huskies up 21-13.
With 4:23 remaining in the first half, sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored her 107th three-pointer of the season, tying UConn's single season record set by Wendy Davis in 1992. Mosqueda-Lewis went on to break the record with her 108th three-pointer at the 13:13 mark of the second half.
UConn senior Caroline Doty, who played her final career game at Gampel, praised Mosqueda-Lewis for ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor.
"Numbers don't lie," said Doty. "I know that when the ball is in her hands good things are going to happen. If I come off a screen or if we're in transition, I'm always looking for her setting up. The fact that's she's able to get in the lane and post up on the block, she's just able to score from any spot. That's great and makes my job easier."
UConn's offense enjoyed a 10-0 run toward the end of the first half and the Huskies took a 37-24 lead into the locker room at halftime. Vanderbilt turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, which the Huskies capitalized on by scoring 23 of their 37 points off Commodore giveaways.
The Huskies started the second half on a dominating 17-0 run, as Vanderbilt did not score until the 12:40 mark of the half when guard Jasmine Lister hit a shot from behind the arc. UConn continued their offensive pressure throughout the remainder of the game, as Vanderbilt could not come back from their rough start to the half.
"I don't think they did anything I wasn't expecting, but they are very quick and can anticipate their passes which I'm not sure I've seen in my three years," said Lister. "I should've slowed down a little bit and made the extra pass to our shooters."
UConn will travel to Bridgeport on Saturday where they will face Maryland in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. For head coach Geno Auriemma, UConn's 21st Sweet 16 in program history still means a lot to him and he hopes it means a lot to his team.
"I coached tonight's game like it was the most important game of the year because for me still going to the Sweet 16 is a big deal, it really is," said Auriemma. "I was just as tired after this game as I've been in any game because it still means a lot to me and I want it to mean a lot to our players."
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