Mohegan Sun—Lately the UConn Huskies have been playing with a lot of Moxy and confidence in the early stages of their games. Once they figure out not to turn the ball over in the later frame of contests, they will be a force to reckon with.
The Lady Huskies (24-5) basketball team cruised to a conference tournament championship game for the 29th year in a row as they exploded past the No.5 seed Marquette Golden Eagles (21-10) 71-51 in the Big East Tournament semifinals.
Evina Westbrook scored 14 points while all nine players in the rotation found cotton. Dorka Juhász had 13 points, four boards, and three assists, while Christyn Williams chipped 13 points as well. Aaliyah Edwards dominated paint with 11 rebounds — with eight points.
Sophomore Paige Bueckers, who played 18 minutes and finished with two points, two boards, and two assists. This was Bueckers’ fifth game since returning from a left-knee injury that kept her out more than two months.
The Golden Eagles was held to just 31% shooting from the hardwood, after hitting a a tournament-record 65.7 percent in a 105-85 win over DePaul on Saturday. Marquette scored more points than each of the Huskies last four opponents, who were all held under 40.
Marquette was held to just 31% shooting from the floor, after hitting a a tournament-record 65.7 percent in a 105-85 win over DePaul on Saturday. But, they scored more points than each of the Huskies last four opponents, who were all held under 40.
UConn scored this game’s first seven points and never looked back. Williams, who had 13 first-quarter points in the Huskies quarterfinal win over Georgetown, put up eight quick points in the first 10 minutes on Sunday, extending UConn lead 22-6.
The Huskies led 39-18 at the break and had a 59-32 advantage after three quarters.
“That first five is out there and then, that second five comes in,” Westbrook said. “It’s really hard for a team like Marquette. They’re only playing seven, eight people. They’re already tired.”
Nine UConn players logged at least 15 minutes in the contest. The win put Huskies in its 18th straight conference tournament final, giving it a shot at its ninth straight conference tournament championship.
Head coach Geno Auriemma said he’s more excited about how the team looks now than the fact that the Huskies have made their 18th straight Big East Tournament championship game.
“It’s taken a long time to get back there,” Auriemma told reporters after the game. “We’ve never taken [conference tournament success] for granted, but I know when I see it and I know a lot of people watching were like, ‘This is what I’m used to seeing UConn do in past years.’”
Karissa McLaughlin scored 15 points and Jordan King added 12 for Marquette, which must hope they have done enough to get an NCAA Tournament bid.
UConn’s team is healthy, it’s back to being dominant force. Depth was the key in stopping a 7-2 spurt by Marquette in the second half on Sunday. Westbrook, a senior, drained two three-point baskets to put away Marquette for good.
“Our defense really held it down and I feel like we’re really starting to understand ourselves defensively and it’s coming together at the right time,” said Westbrook, who scored a team-high 14 points for UConn.
They’ll next play Villanova University, who beat Seton Hall University on Sunday evening 64-55. The Big East Tournament final tips off at 8 p.m. Monday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville.