STORRS, Conn. – Add another impressive streak to the Connecticut record book.
For the 20th consecutive season, No. 1 seed Connecticut has advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA women's basketball tournament after defeating No. 8 seed Vanderbilt 77-44 Monday night at Gampel Pavilion.
UConn (31-4) advances to play Maryland in Bridgeport on Saturday as the Huskies continue their pursuit of a sixth consecutive Final Four and an eighth national championship.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the way for the Huskies with a game-high 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting from the floor. Mosqueda-Lewis made two of her four three-point attempts, passing Wendy Davis' school record for most three-pointers in a season. Mosqueda-Lewis has now made 108 this season.
"Numbers don't lie," senior guard Caroline Doty said of her teammate's three-point proficiency. "I know 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."
Mosqueda-Lewis also added three assists, three rebounds and two steals to her totals.
Doty, who got the start in her final game at Gampel, finished with two points, a block, a steal and an assist in 24 minutes on the floor.
Despite an uncharacteristically slow start for the Huskies, they were able to find a familiar rhythm on offense, eventually taking control of the game. It took the Huskies five minutes, 19 seconds to reach double-digits on a jumper from Breanna Stewart, who finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks. It was Stewart's first NCAA tournament game as well as her first game back since injuring her left calf before the NCAA opener against Idaho.
"I just enjoyed being out there and being able to play," Stewart said about her first tournament game. "It's been awhile since I've played a game personally. I think there were a little bit of nerves because it was the first tournament game for me, but I got comfortable pretty quickly."
The Commodores kept it close for most of the first half, trailing the Huskies by five points with 5:43 to play. However, a 12-4 run by the Huskies to close out the half gave them a 37-24 lead at the break. During that first half, UConn forced five of Vanderbilt's 13 turnovers, which lead to 23 of their 37 points.
"It's great because when we come out and trap and get steals, that kind of rolls over into our offense," Doty said about the Huskies' defense. "So when we get transition points, those are easy buckets, so we can get into our press to try to force more turnovers."
For the game, UConn forced 11 of Vanderbilt's 23 turnovers and scored 34 points off of the Commodore's mistakes.
UConn stayed hot, opening the second half on a 17-0 run that lasted just over seven minutes. After that, the Huskies never looked back. Vanderbilt never cut UConn's lead closer than 13 points.
Stefanie Dolson finished with 12 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes and Morgan Tuck added 11 points.
With the win, UConn advances to the Sweet Sixteen where they will face fourth-seeded Maryland. The Terrapins are coming off of a 74-49 victory over Michigan State. It will be the second time these two teams have played each other this season as UConn got the better of Maryland on Dec. 3 when the Huskies defeated the Terrapins 63-48 in the XL Center.
Despite the familiarity that the Huskies have with the Terrapins, coach Geno Auriemma feels that might not be as helpful as it is perceived to be.
"Well, when you play a team that you've already played, there's a lot of good in that and there's a lot of bad in that," Auriemma said about the matchup with Maryland. "There's some things that I'm sure they're gonna want to do different because anytime you play somebody and you don't win, you want to do some things different. "But, the fact that we won that game doesn't mean that were not gonna do a couple things different as well... Maryland is really really good. They're big, they're strong, they're physical, they got some great athletes, they've been a top-ten team most of the year. That's what you're gonna get. If you're lucky enough to play four more games that's what you're gonna get, no matter what the building is, no matter where - there's only lots of good teams left and Maryland is one of the best ones for sure."
Maryland is lead by junior forward Alyssa Thomas, who averages 19 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for the Terrapins. She pairs up front with senior forward Tianna Hawkins, who averages 18.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
UConn has won 30 games for an NCAA-record eighth straight time.
The Huskies improved to 21-2 in second-round games. They have not missed a regional semifinal since losing to Louisville in the first round of the 1993 tournament. UConn improved to 43-4 in NCAA Tournament games played in Connecticut, including 41 of their last 42. Thirty-two of those wins have come in Gampel Pavilion.
"The consistency of our program, day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out is something that we can take great pride in," Auriemma said. "I don't know who else has done it 20 years in a row, but it's really hard to do. Sometimes we make it look easy, but it's really hard to do."
The Associated Press and UConnPlaybook.com publisher Ken Davis contributed to this report.