Mohegan Sun — After 138 consecutive win and possibly going for the 139th, the Huskies are taking nothing for granted.
The top-seeded Huskies advanced with a 79-38 beat down of No. 4 South Florida Sunday. Third-seeded Cincinnati is in its first championship game in 17 years came back from a double-digit deficit to stun No. 2 Central Florida 57-51 in the second semifinal.
“It’s our last game,” Dangerfield said. “We know it and they know it. It’s probably going to be one of our toughest games in the conference.”
The Huskies (28-3) has never lost to Cincinnati and won its two regular-season games against the Bearcats (22-9) by 30 and 47 points, with the 105-58 rout at Fifth Third Arena coming just a little over a week ago.
“Cincinnati’s aggressive,” UConn center Olivia Nelson-Ododa said. “They have undersized posts and are guard heavy. We need to be quick, the same way we were the last time we played them.”
Christyn Williams had 26 points, Megan Walker 25, and Anna Makurat 20 in the win in Cincinnati on Feb. 26. The Huskies have also contained Bearcats’ leading scorer Iimar’I Thomas, limiting the unanimous AAC first-team pick to a total of 19 points in two games.
“We came out with big wins in both games and what we did was move the ball,” Dangerfield said. “We got out in transition and made them take tough shots. They’re the kind of team that likes to run their stuff.”
From the start of the game, UConn pushed the tempo and was able to get easy buckets down low in the paint area.
USF likes to run as well but wasn’t able to get into their offensive flow because of the Huskies’ trapping defense and man-to-man press from the start of the contest. UConn held USF to 1-for-13 shooting and forced nine turnovers in the first quarter in taking an 18-5 lead. The score was 38-17 at halftime and the Bulls got no closer the rest of the way in falling to 0-32 against UConn.
UConn had four in double figures led by Megan Walker (21), Christyn Williams (15), and Crystal Dangerfield (13).
Aubrey Griffin came off the bench and was an immediate impact on both sides of the ball.
“We said this at shoot-around today,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We said, ‘Aubrey, if you don’t know what to do, screen. Then after you do that and you wonder what to do next, go set another screen. What should I do next? If the ball goes up in the air, go get it.’
“That’s probably the most basic and easiest instruction any coach has given one of their players. If she can do those things, we’re able to get a lot out of her. Then on the defensive end, we have options.”
UConn has a tendency in the second half to fall asleep on the defensive side of the ball but not this game they were lazer focus.
AAC freshman of the year Elena Tsineke had nine points Sunday for the Bulls (19-13).
Tonight’s game marked the Huskies’ 30th conference tournament final in 32 seasons.
“You can’t take things like that for granted,” Nelson-Ododa said. “You can’t have that expectation that you’ll be there. You have to go out and earn it. That’s what we try to focus on and in the two years I’ve been here we’ve been successful.”