No. 1 seed UConn was just too much for No. 4 seed Maryland Saturday afternoon, as the Huskies defeated the Terps, 76-50, in Bridgeport Conn. to advance to the Elite Eight, where they will play Kentucky at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.
Geno Auriemma’s crew was led by 17 points apiece from sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and freshman Breanna Stewart.
Mosqueda-Lewis, who led the nation with a three-point shooting percentage of exactly 50 percent entering the second round of the NCAA tournament, gave the Terps a bit of a reprieve by not hitting her first 3-pointer until the 18:20 mark of the second half. She also finished the game just 1 for 7 from beyond the arc.
However, the Huskies really won this game with their defense more than anything. They held the team with the third best field goal percentage in the nation at 47.6 percent to just 31.1 percent and only allowed them to score two more points than they did in the previous meeting between the two teams in December, which marked the Terps’ worst offensive outing of the season.
They also held Alyssa Thomas, who had been averaging 28.5 points per game through the first two rounds of the tournament, to just 13 on 4 for 16 shooting from the field.
Maryland lost the lead for good at the 14:20 mark of the first, but showed signs of life toward the end of the opening period, when a non-foul call on a Tianna Hawkins denial of Kelly Faris with 21 seconds remaining led to a Geno Auriemma technical. Thomas would make a free throw, and then Hawkins added another score for three quick Maryland points right before the break.
This turn of events brought the Terps within nine and seemed to give them momentum and hope heading into the second half.
However, the Huskies came out with a 9-0 run to start the second, which included Mosqueda-Lewis’ three and put the Terps in the kind of deficit that they hoped they’d never have to look at in this tournament. The kind they saw last year in the Elite Eight, when Notre Dame beat them by 31. And the kind they saw earlier this year against UConn, when they trailed by as much as 19 and lost by 15.
Maryland has also had their share of miracle comebacks in recent memory, including one in this same round last year against Texas A&M;, but they were not able to orchestrate one on Saturday, as UConn led by double digits for all but the first minute or so of the second.
Tianna Hawkins and Chloe Pavlech were the other players in double figures scoring for the Terps – Pavlech doing it with a 3 for 4 effort form beyond the arc. Hawkins just missed a double-double with eight boards and so did Thomas, who hauled in nine rebounds, and Alicia DeVaughn (9 points, 11 rebounds).
For UConn, this was a big win against a team that may have had a short bench, but had been playing like they were under-seeded with a dominant second round. The Huskies refused to be snuck up on and are now one step closer to potentially getting another shot at Notre Dame or Baylor or both.