BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Connecticut is headed back to a familiar place: the Final Four.
Breanna Stewart scored 21 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 17 to help top-seeded UConn rout Kentucky 83-53 on Monday night and advance to a record sixth consecutive national semifinal.
The Huskies will face either Notre Dame or Duke in the national semifinals Sunday in New Orleans. The Irish and Blue Devils play tonight. UConn (33-4) broke a tie with Stanford (2008-12), LSU (2004-08) and itself (2000-04) by reaching the Final Four again.
It was the second year in a row that UConn beat Kentucky in the regional finals.
The Huskies trailed 23-22 with nine minutes left in the first half. That’s when Stewart – honored as the outstanding player of the Bridgeport Regional – and UConn’s “no-name” defense took over, allowing three points the rest of the half.
“We’re either right on point, we do everything right or we get a little bit off kilter and lose our composure a little bit,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Once we got into our rhythm and our tempo, we just played good basketball.”
Kentucky missed 13 of its final 14 shots in the half. Stewart , the national high school player of the year last season, scored nine points and had a vicious two-handed block during that closing run.
UConn led 48-26 at the half, and Kentucky couldn’t get within 20 in the second half.
The loudest cheer of the night from the sellout crowd of nearly 8,600 came when the video board showed highlights of Louisville’s upset victory over Baylor on Sunday night. UConn’s only losses this season came to Baylor and three times to Notre Dame.
After struggling through the middle part of the season, Stewart has averaged 16.4 points since the start of the Big East tournament.
The loss brought to a close a record year for the Wildcats (30-5), which had the most victories in school history.
Senior A’dia Mathies, the two-time SEC player of the year, had a quiet game, scoring only 14 points with 11 of them coming in the second half. She finished as the winningest player in Kentucky history.
“It looks a lot different when she’s walking out the door than when she was walking in the door,” Mitchell said. “I hate how we performed the way we did and sent her out this way. I hope the contribution she made and impact she made doesn’t get lost in a real tough 40 minutes for us.”
Kastine Evans, who hit the big 3-pointer to help beat Delaware in the regional semifinals had just two points on 1 of 9 shooting. Her older brother R.J., who played on the UConn’s men’s basketball team this season, sat behind the Wildcats bench in a Kentucky shirt.
The Huskies have won 43 of their past 44 NCAA games in the state of Connecticut, including going 9-1 in Bridgeport. The lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.