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Bridgeport - To think that Sweet 16 berths are cause for joyful tears, passionate celebrations and triumphant banners in so many other outposts. Here? It's like brewing coffee in the morning: just part of the routine.
And now for the 19th straight season, the following sentence can be written: The UConn women are going to the Sweet 16.
They won't be going far, either. The top-seeded Huskies are off to the Kingston Regional semifinals on the campus of the University of Rhode Island, following their 72-26 victory over helpless No. 8 seed Kansas State on Monday night at Webster Bank Arena.
UConn (31-4) will play the winner of tonight's Penn State-LSU game on Sunday at URI's Ryan Center.
The last time UConn failed to qualify for the Sweet 16 was 1993. The Huskies lost to Louisville in the first round of the tournament.
"It's probably one of the things I'm most proud of," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of the 19 straight berths. "It's 2012, right? It's been a long time."
Then Auriemma, on the podium talking to reporters, cracked, "and people still bust my chops."
UConn used suffocating defense, limiting Kansas State to 18 percent shooting (10-for-57). Kansas State's 26 points is a record for fewest in an NCAA tournament game.
Bria Hartley led the Huskies with 16 points, while Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 15 and Tiffany Hayes had 11 with nine rebounds and six turnovers. The most encouraging number, however, belonged to freshman Kiah Stokes, an ever-improving threat in the post, who had 13 points and nine rebounds.
Stokes got special congratulations from Auriemma, who sought her just before the final horn for some words of affirmation.
"Maybe some people believed me, maybe some didn't," Auriemma said, alluding to his comment that Stokes would be a major factor in UConn's tournament success. "We're a different team when she's able to play as well as she did today. It's a sign she's growing up a little bit. The real sign will be Sunday, whether she can build on this. If she does this again, I know we're headed in the right direction."
Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said Sunday the Wildcats weren't scared of playing UConn because her team played top-ranked Baylor three times.
Could have fooled the 4,372 in attendance.
The Wildcats made their first shot … and then missed 18 straight, falling hopelessly behind. UConn set a school record for fewest points allowed in the first half of a tournament game (10). The old record was 12 against Temple on March 23, 2010.
"It's extremely disappointing to have competed so ineptly," Patterson said. "We were dominated in every phase. Why? I can't tell you at this point."
Later, Patterson called UConn "my pick to win it all. … They're so versatile."