UConn advances to eighth straight Elite Eight

Maryland's Malina Howard (4) takes a hand to the face from UConn's Breanna Stewart during the second half of Saturday's NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional semifinal at Webster Bank Arena. Stewart, a freshman, had 17 points as the Huskies reached the Elite Eight for the eighth straight year with a 76-50 victory.
Buy Photo Tim Martin/The Day Maryland's Malina Howard (4) takes a hand to the face from UConn's Breanna Stewart during the second half of Saturday's NCAA tournament Bridgeport Regional semifinal at Webster Bank Arena. Stewart, a freshman, had 17 points as the Huskies reached the Elite Eight for the eighth straight year with a 76-50 victory.

Bridgeport - A sellout crowd at Webster Bank Arena left happy enough Saturday, although wondering the answer to the following question:

Who's faster: Chris Dailey in heels or Moriah Jefferson in sneakers?

It was Dailey, UConn's associate head coach, who raced to midcourt to corral a berserk Geno Auriemma late in the first half, while the coach was on a safety blitz after the officials. And it was Jefferson, the spitfire freshman guard, who picked the best day of the season to play her best game of the season.

Dailey's speed kept Auriemma on the sidelines. Jefferson's speed sent Maryland home.

An the UConn women are going back to the Elite Eight for the eighth straight season.

The top-seeded Huskies played well even by their standards Saturday and inhaled No. 4 Maryland, 76-50. UConn (32-4) earned a rematch of last season's regional final and will play Kentucky for the right to go to the Final Four on Monday (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

Jefferson had 10 points, three assists and two steals, elevating the tempo of the game to NASCAR. Classmates Breanna Stewart (17 points, eight rebounds, four blocks) and Morgan Tuck (eight points) cushioned two potentially scary injuries to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stefanie Dolson.

"I thought Jefferson was the difference in the game today," Auriemma said. "She created a lot for us."

This is the same Auriemma who called himself a "dumbass" after the game for the technical foul he earned late in the first half while UConn's lead was in single digits. Kelly Faris was driving for a layup and appeared to absorb considerable contact from Maryland's Tianna Hawkins, who was credited with a blocked shot.

Auriemma raced sideways from the coach's box to midcourt, arms extended, palms up, as if trying to teach a defensive slide. Dailey took off after him and nearly shadowboxed him until he calmed down.

"Let me just tell you that he took off," Dailey said. "I might have to start wearing flats. He took off and I didn't see him. Honestly, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. Mostly, I tried to block him, so he didn't say anything else really dumb."

Auriemma: "I cost our team four points. At this stage of my life, I should be way past that."

It wasn't the only time Auriemma wore a concerned look. Dolson, who has a tender right leg, fell in a heap under UConn's basket in the first half and didn't immediately jump to her feet. She even said a naughty word for television cameras.

"I know," Dolson said after the game with a grin, "awkward."

Dolson said she was feeling better after the game.

Mosqueda-Lewis, too, tweaked her ankle, but returned to the game.

"It was extremely physical," Dolson said. "Maryland kind of beats you up. But we did a great job of staying together."

Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 17 points. Dolson had nine points and 10 rebounds.

Alyssa Thomas, who entered the game averaging 28.5 points per game in the tournament, led Maryland with 13 points. In two games against UConn this season, Thomas shot 6-for-28 from the field.

Kentucky advanced with a 69-62 win over Delaware, ending Elena Delle Donne's college career. The Wildcats' 14-point lead shrunk to two in the final two minutes before Norwich Free Academy graduate Kastine Evans made a 3-point field goal to all but end it.

m.dimauro@theday.com

UConn freshman Moriah Jefferson drives past Maryland's Chloe Pavlech for two points during the Huskies' 76-50 victory Saturday in Bridgeport.
Buy Photo Tim Martin/The Day UConn freshman Moriah Jefferson drives past Maryland's Chloe Pavlech for two points during the Huskies' 76-50 victory Saturday in Bridgeport.
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