UConn rolls over Mississippi State and into the Elite Eight in Bridgeport Regional, 98-38

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. On the heels of the upset losses handed to fellow top seeds South Carolina and Notre Dame, Connecticut opened their Sweet 16 game versus Mississippi State with a 13-0 run, on their way to a 98-38 rout of the Bulldogs. The score marked the biggest margin of victory in Sweet 16 history.

“There’s really not a lot that you can say when you start the game the way we started it,” said UConn head coach Geno Auriemma. “It’s the same thing I said to our players in the locker room. We have got some seniors that have played a lot of games, and they have played in a lot of big games. And when they show up and play the way they played today, it’s hard for anybody to play against us. I’m probably as surprised as anybody about the final score.”

Breanna Stewart led the Huskies in impressive fashion, scoring 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting, while pulling down 14 rebounds and blocking five shots in only 22 minutes of action.

“I think we just have a really good focus level,” Stewart said about playing so well in the tournament. “I think right now we know that it’s the most important time, and we don’t think about anything else, but what we have to do in the game. So I think that’s what allows us to be really successful, is that all five people on the floor, everyone on the bench, they’re all on the same page.”

UConn led 32-4 after the first quarter, a period that saw not only the 13-0 opening run, but also 19-4 run for the rest of the quarter. This marks the second time in three tournament games that UConn held their opponent to four first quarter points (Robert Morris). By halftime the lead was 61-12 and UConn coach Geno Auriemma substituted liberally for the rest of the game.

Morgan Tuck contributed 19 points and Katie Lou Samuelson added 21 for the Huskies, and the team shot a breathtaking 62.7 percent for the game. They controlled the boards, 44-29 and only committed ten turnovers.

Mississippi State came in with a reputation for strong defense and a running offense led by sophomore Victoria Vivians, an all-conference performer. Vivians was stymied by UConn, hitting only 3-of-15 shots for the game, as the Huskies defense held Mississippi State to 29 percent shooting for the game, and forced 18 turnovers. 6’7 freshman Teaira McCowan led the Bulldogs with ten points.

“They’re like piranha’s on a roast,” said Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer about UConn’s hot start. “When they go in transition, you can’t get the bone out of the water fast enough. So, it’s a difficult deal to deal with.”

He remained positive about his squad.

“I’ve got a really good team. We just didn’t show the country or you today really how good we are. And, again, that’s my responsibility, and I’m disappointed in that.”

On Monday night UConn will face the winner of the second game in the Bridgeport regional between Texas and UCLA.

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