HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut's final Big East tournament is playing out at the XL Center this week and as the end of an era approaches, the Huskies want nothing more than to add another championship to their already lengthy resume.
The No. 2 seed Huskies got off to a great start Sunday night with a commanding 94-61 victory over DePaul in the quarterfinals.
UConn (28-3) never relinquished the lead once against DePaul (21-11), a direct result of offensive efficiency and tough defense. Breanna Stewart led the Huskies with a game-high 21 points, 16 of them in the second half, and six rebounds.
"I would say the same thing I said to our team after the game, we played a really good basketball game," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "The game was well played by a lot of our players, individually and as a team. Coming off a pretty emotional game [a loss at Notre Dame] last Monday, we had an opportunity to come out and play."
Both Stewart and Stefanie Dolson played a major role in dominating the paint against DePaul as the Huskies outscored the Devils 46-14 inside. Dolson scored 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots.
"Well, I had an inkling that [Breanna Stewart] would play better than she has in a while because she practiced better this week than she has in a while," Auriemma said. "I saw today some of the same things I saw Thursday, Friday and Saturday and it carried over into today. That's a good sign."
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With the win, UConn will face No. 3 seed Syracuse in the semifinals Monday (8 p.m., ESPNU) the Orange defeated Villanova 61-56. Top-seeded Notre Dame also advanced to the semifinals, but not without a scare from South Florida as the Irish hung on for a 75-66 victory. Notre Dame will play No. 4 seed Louisville in the semifinals.
A good sign for the Huskies moving forward is an apparent resurgence from Bria Hartley, who had struggled over her previous two games. Hartley finished with 12 points, six assists, five rebounds and one turnover. In the previous two games for UConn, Hartley had a total of nine turnovers. Her effectiveness as a point guard will be crucial down the stretch for the Huskies as Moriah Jefferson, who got the start against DePaul, is playing in her first conference tournament.
With 5:03 remaining in the second half, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis hit her fourth and final three-pointer of the game, which was No. 100 on the season. The three-pointer was also marks her 193 in the last two seasons, setting a UConn record. Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
"I think we needed to focus on rebounding aggressiveness offensively and defensively and when we came out into the game we picked up the intensity on the glass," Mosqueda-Lewis said.
UConn beat DePaul 47-33 on the glass, pulling down 18 offensive rebounds, which led to 19 second chance points.
The bright spot in DePaul's offense came from Megan Rogowski, who scored 15 points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting from the floor. Brittany Hrynko, DePaul's best three-point shooter, struggled to score just three points in the game. She finished shooting 1-for-8 from the floor, making just one of her five 3-point attempts.
"I think UConn is a great team," said coach Doug Bruno. "There's three elite teams in this country and that's been proven so far and that's Baylor, Notre Dame and UConn. The three big teams that have the best chance to win the national championship. What makes them great is their talent and that it is a very difficult challenge to have to play against this level of player and they are deep."
UConnPlaybook.com Managing Editor and Beat Writer Ken Davis contributed to this story.