BRIDGEPORT, CONN. (AP) - Geno Auriemma took a second to think about what his UConn Huskies had just accomplished.
It wasn’t the NCAA tournament defensive record his top-seeded team set in a 72-26 victory over Kansas State that caught his attention. He was more interested in the fact that UConn was going to make its 19th straight trip to the round of 16.
“Up to this point there haven’t been any breakdowns,” Auriemma said. “We haven’t found ourselves losing in the first round, or playing poorly and losing in the second round. We just won’t allow ourselves to do that to this point. We haven’t for two decades and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”
There was no way that streak was going to end against Kansas State as Bria Hartley and the Huskies nearly played a flawless defensive game in a record rout of Kansas State.
“I think it was definitely close to a perfect game _ you can always do better,” Hartley said. “We came out with a lot more intensity than we did last game. We used that game as motivation to play better this game.”
The Huskies (31-4) limited Kansas State to 18 percent shooting and 10 field goals, contesting virtually every shot in their second-round matchup.
“Defense is what we take pride in here,” said Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who added 15 points. “I feel like we have a lot of good offensive players, but it doesn’t really take heart to play offense. All defense is is a lot of heart and a lot of effort and I think we put out a lot of heart and a lot of effort tonight on defense.”
UConn will play the winner of Penn State and LSU in Kingston, R.I., on Sunday in the regional semifinals.
Eighth-seeded Kansas State (20-14) was trying to make it that far for the first time since 2002. But the Wildcats were no match for the Huskies, unable to surpass the 27 points that Southern scored against Duke in 2006, the previous record.
“When you play a great team and compete as ineptly as we did tonight, you end up on the bad side of a big deficit,” Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. “I’m proud of the team for our season, disappointed in the end result.”
Brittany Chambers scored 11 points to lead the Wildcats, who went 11 minutes in the first half without a point.
After taking a 3-2 lead 34 seconds in, the Wildcats missed 18 straight shots over the next 11:17. By the time Jalana Childs put back a miss, they trailed 19-5 with 8:09 left. They could never recover.
“Our defensive effort tonight was about as good I’ve seen from us all year long,” Auriemma said. “There really were very few open looks that we gave up and I think our pressure has been as good as it’s been any time all year.”
Even when Kansas State did something right, it went wrong. Twice the Wildcats had steals at midcourt that would have led to easy layups, but UConn was whistled for fouls. Both times Kansas State took the ball out on the side and was unable to convert the turnovers into baskets.