STORRS, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — UConn coach Geno Auriemma was in a reflective mood on his 61st birthday after the Huskies earned their 22nd consecutive trip to the NCAA regional semifinals.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 23 points to lead his top-ranked UConn team to a 91-55 rout of Rutgers on Monday night. Moriah Jefferson added 19 points and Morgan Tuck had 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Huskies (34-1), who won their 33rd consecutive game and 79th in 80 tries.
UConn, which is trying to win its 10th national championship and third in row, is now 99-17 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Auriemma said despite how his teams have made it look, getting this far in the tournament every year is not easy.
“It’s not just because we’re Connecticut,” Auriemma said. “It’s not just because we have the best players. It’s not just because the NCAA or anybody else is going to give it to us because we’ve been there so many times. We have to earn it every year.”
Tyler Scaife had 16 points for eighth-seeded Rutgers (23-10), which was in its first NCAA Tournament since 2012 and has not made it past the second round since 2009.
UConn had a 20-point lead at the half and ran away from Rutgers after the Scarlet Knights lost guard Briyona Canty to a knee injury less than two minutes into the second half.
The junior twisted her left knee while coming down from a layup attempt. She was starting in place of Big Ten defensive player of the year Syessence Davis, who tore her left MCL in the Big Ten Tournament.
“So now all of the sudden you have to put a freshman in there,” said Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer. “That meant that Betnijah (Laney) has to go off her shooting role and she becomes a point guard. It just was a big collapse.”
Mosqueda-Lewis hit one of her five 3-pointers to cap a 14-2 run over the first five minutes of the second half and put the game out of reach.
“It’s called basketball,” Auriemma said. “You’ve got to put the damn ball in the basket and she does that pretty well.”
The Huskies led by as many as 41 and shot 48 percent from the field, while holding the Scarlet Knights to 34 percent.
Rutgers led just once, at 2-0. A pair of 3-pointers by Moriah Jefferson stretched an early 13-8 lead to 19-8. Morgan Tuck got the assist on the second basket, her 100th this season. She is one of four Huskies with at least 100 assists.
“That was a great team and I have nothing to say but admiration and respect for UConn and the well-oiled machine that they have,” Stringer said. “They played great defense, they played great offense, and it was a bit much — a lot for us — to try to take. I wish them well and I’m sure that they will be playing for the national championship.”
UConn star Breanna Stewart played just 23 minutes after picking up two fouls, 12 seconds apart, just four minutes into the game. She finished with eight points.
But Rutgers had its own foul trouble. Ariel Butts and Canty each picked up three fouls in the first half, and Kahleah Copper picked up her third less than a minute into the second half.
A 6-0 run Rutgers run made it 21-16 and got UConn to call timeout. Mosqueda Lewis hit a pair of 3s and had eight points during a 14-2 run that pushed the lead back to 35-18
The senior, who had just two points in UConn’s first-round game, had 16 at halftime and UConn had a 51-31 lead.
“I definitely didn’t want to have the same game that I had on Saturday,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I had more of an impact, whether it was defensively or offensively.”
UConn is now 34-6 all-time against Rutgers and has won the last 14 meetings between the former Big East rivals, dating back to February, 2008.
Rutgers stayed closer than many. UConn has beaten 18 opponents by 40 or more this season, and have an average margin of victory of more than 42 points.
UConn: Auriemma (913) and Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer (952) have combined for 1865 wins, the most ever by two coaches sharing the floor in an NCAA Tournament game…. UConn improved to 11-1 on Auriemma’s birthday, with the lone loss coming to North Carolina State in the 1998 regional final. The Huskies made Auriemma skip around the floor as they sang to him during Monday’s shoot-around. …
Rutgers, which had a season-high seven 3-pointers in its 79-66 win over Seton Hall in the first round, hit just 1 of 9 on Monday. … C. Vivian Stringer missed out on collecting a $500,000 bonus for making the regional semifinals. Auriemma gets a month salary for making it to Albany, or just under $172,000.
Mosqueda-Lewis now needs just six 3-pointers to tie the NCAA Division I record of 392. She also needs just 11 points to pass Rebecca Lobo (2,133) and move into seventh place among program scorers… The senior also is just eight minutes shy of becoming the 11th UConn player to play 4,000 career minutes.
UConn faces No. 5 seed Texas on March 28 in the regional semifinal in Albany. The Longhorns beat fourth-seeded California 73-70.
Rutgers’ season is over.
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