STORRS, Conn.—The really difficult NCAA Tournament challenges, if there are to be any at all, will arrive at a later date, perhaps next week in Albany, maybe the following week in Columbus.
That much was known well in advance. The top-ranked and top-seeded Connecticut Huskies women, the only undefeated team in the nation, could come off a 10-day layoff and start their march toward another Final Four by easing their way back into a fluid state of operation that eventually will be needed to win a 12th national championship.
Instead, the Huskies broke out of the gate at ridiculous speed Saturday afternoon, and a helpless guest, Saint Francis (Pa.), was swept up by a tornado and tossed aside rather casually and cruelly.
Connecticut won, 140-52, setting all kinds of records along the way, including most points in a tournament game. The score was 94-31 at halftime, marking the most points scored by a team in any half in the history of women’s basketball.
Three Huskies had double-doubles. Azura Stevens had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Hamilton native Kia Nurse 15 points and 10 rebounds and Katie Lou Samuelson 18 points and 10 assists.
The game was essentially over when the Huskies won the opening tip and Samuelson made a three-pointer moments later, and the rout just got worse and worse (or, better and better, depending on your perspective) as it went.
Connecticut also set a record for points in a quarter, leading 55-19 after one period. The previous record was 41, also held by the Huskies.
Connecticut was 39 for 53 from the field in the first half.
The all-time record for points in a game is 149 by Long Beach State in 1987. Alabama held the previous NCAA Tournament record with 121, vs. Duke in 1995 (a four-overtime game).
Connecticut (33-0) advances to face No. 9 Quinnipiac in Albany Region play.
Saint Francis’ nothing-to-lose approach included the decision to shoot many three-pointers and actually run a fast break, decisions that only pushed UConn downcourt in their own break faster. For a while, the Huskies looked primed to score 200 points, but eventually the brakes were pumped as coach Geno Auriemma worked his bench in the game and rested starters.
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