- Associated Press - Saturday, March 19, 2016

STORRS, Conn. (AP) - Top-ranked UConn made an early statement about its focus in the quest for a fourth consecutive national title.

Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson scored 22 points, two-time national player of the year Breanna Stewart added 18 and UConn routed Robert Morris 101-49 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies led by 37 points after the first quarter and were never challenged.

“When it comes to NCAA Tournament time, you don’t have to get anyone up for a game,” Stewart said. “Everyone is ready to play and we came out looking like we came ready to play.”

Anna Niki Stamolamprou had 11 for Robert Morris (20-13) in the final game for coach Sal Buscaglia, who is retiring after a 38-year career.

The Huskies, who are seeking an 11th championship, have won 70 consecutive games, which matches the second-longest winning streak in team and NCAA history.

They led by 49 points at halftime and 61 after three quarters.

The win sends the Huskies to the second round for the 23rd straight season, where they face Duquesne.

Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse each scored 14 points while combining for 11 assists. Morgan Tuck added 13 points and eight rebounds.

Stewart also had eight steals and three blocked shots, giving her 398 blocks for her career. Her rejection of a layup by Leah Wormack at the end of the first quarter moved her past Rebecca Lobo and into first place on the school’s all-time list.

UConn put the game away in that quarter, led by 10 points each from Stewart and Samuelson.

Nurse hit a 3-pointer from the right baseline 19 seconds into the game and the Huskies never trailed. UConn pressured Robert Morris early and forced 13 first-quarter turnovers. The Huskies used a 22-0 run to lead 41-4 after 10 minutes.

UConn took its first 50-point lead at 60-9 on a pair of free throws from Natalie Butler and led 64-15 at halftime.

“We all got off to a good start and a good run and I think our energy was really high,” Samuelson said. “So, it made it a lot easier for us to go on a run.”

Robert Morris, which averages about 16 giveaways a game, turned the ball over 29 times, and the Huskies scored 50 points off those.

The margin of victory wasn’t the largest in UConn’s tournament history. The Huskies beat LIU 101-29 in the first round of the 2001 tournament.

Buscaglia announced last year that this would be his final season after coaching stints at Hilbert College, Buffalo and Manhattan. He finishes his career 711-369 and 224-178 at Robert Morris. His first game as a head coach was a 105-17 loss, and he joked that he was worried about coming full circle.

“After 38 years of doing this and knowing I’m not going to be doing it, it’s hard,” he said through tears after the game. “I’m not Peyton Manning. I’m not those people, but it’s still the same feeling.”

He also expressed pride in his team, noting they were taking running plays and taking charges until the final buzzer.

UConn, which has won 116 of its last 117 games, also won 70 straight games between November 2001 and November 2003. They need 20 more to match their own NCAA record of 90 games set between November 2008 and December 2010.

The Huskies, who have qualified for the NCAA Tournament every year since 1989, are now 104-17 in the tournament and 24-2 in the first round. The Huskies have been to eight straight Final Fours and 10 straight regional finals.

“This team is pretty locked in,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “They are pretty focused on what we are trying to do, what the task ahead of us is.”

TIP INS

UConn: The Huskies last lost a first-round game in 1993, falling to Louisville 74-71. None of current players were born yet. …The Huskies are now 50-4 in NCAA Tournament games played in the state of Connecticut, with a chance to add three more wins to that total this season. The regional semifinals and finals will be played in Bridgeport.

Robert Morris: Buscaglia’s son, Charlie, takes over the program next season. He has been with the program for 13 years and been the associate head coach for seven seasons. … Stamolamprou finishes her junior season with 1,301 points, in seventh place on the school’s all-time list.

UP NEXT:

Robert Morris: Season over.

UConn: The Huskies face Duquesne in the second round on Monday night.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide