UConn women survive slow start and beat BYU 70-51

UConn's Stefanie Dolson (31) is fouled by BYU's Jennifer Hamson during the second half of Saturday's Lincoln Regional semifinal game at the University of Nebraska. The Huskies overcame a poor shooting first half to beat the Cougars 70-51 and advance to Monday's regional final against Texas A&M, an 84-65 winner over DePaul.
UConn's Stefanie Dolson (31) is fouled by BYU's Jennifer Hamson during the second half of Saturday's Lincoln Regional semifinal game at the University of Nebraska. The Huskies overcame a poor shooting first half to beat the Cougars 70-51 and advance to Monday's regional final against Texas A&M, an 84-65 winner over DePaul. Nati Harnik/AP Photo

Lincoln, Neb. - Geno Auriemma isn't always the world's most positive thinker. There was one night many years ago that Villanova scored the first 10 points of a game, prompting Auriemma to turn to associate head coach Chris Dailey and say, "we're going to get shut out."

So imagine the coach's thoughts Saturday in a knockout game, Brigham Young raining threes, while his UConn Huskies clinked and clanked their way to a - gulp - a six-point deficit in the first half.

"Anytime you don't make any shots it's like being in a baseball game and a guy no-hits you through four innings," Auriemma said. "You think you're never going to get a hit. Shooting is the same way. It is very contagious. When you see Stewie (Breanna Stewart) miss shots that she makes with her eyes closed, you see us just miss wide open shots that we haven't all year things do cross your mind."

Happily for Auriemma, however, he could recycle one of his other best lines: He had Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and they didn't.

Mosqueda-Lewis' 19 points and 13 rebounds (eight offensive) helped No. 1 UConn advance to the Elite Eight for the ninth straight season with a 70-51 win over plucky No. 12 Brigham Young at Pinnacle Bank Arena. UConn (37-0) will play third-seeded Texas A&M on Monday (9:30 p.m., ESPN) for the right to advance to the Final Four next week in Nashville.

"The people on our staff know this and will vouch for me. I knew it was going to be like this," Auriemma said. "I knew it was going to be difficult because they are not an easy matchup for anybody. The way they played in the first half and the way we shot the ball in the first half, that is the kind of stuff you have to expect in the tournament. It is not going to be easy, no matter how easy we make it look sometimes. It is not supposed to be easy. Today it wasn't.

"I thought we showed a lot of who we are that second half. When it came time to make plays, when we needed to make plays, we did," he said. "Even with a bad shooting night, we beat a really, really good team."

BYU (28-7) offered a 6-foot-7 center, Jennifer Hamson, who was altering shots, finishing with six blocked shots. Wing Morgan Bailey bothered Stewart in the first half, holding her without a field goal for nearly 19 minutes. And guard Kim Beeston made four 3-pointers in the first half, contributing to some angst.

And still, UConn had a one-point lead at halftime.

With the game tied at 37, Mosqueda-Lewis keyed a 10-0 run with three rebounds, two assists, a steal and a 3-pointer, all in a span of three minutes.

"I was just trying to get in there as much as possible, just trying to get us second-chance shots because I knew we really weren't knocking down the shots we usually did," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I was just trying to be as physical as I could."

Let's just say BYU coach Jeff Judkins noticed.

"(Mosqueda-Lewis) seemed to get what she wanted," he said. "We went triangle and two. I had to put my little point guard from Hawaii (Kylie Maeda) that's 110 pounds on her. She just pushed her under the basket and got the rebound. I know I'm going to show that tape to (Maeda) and say 'you better get in the weight room this summer.'"

Stewart finished with 16 for the Huskies while Bria Hartley had 12 points, Moriah Jefferson had 11 and Stefanie Dolson finished with nine points and 13 rebounds.

UConn finished 3-for-19 from three-point range.

"We just know the ball eventually has to go in," Stewart said. "We've seen it go in so many times during practice or games."

m.dimauro@theday.com

UConn's Moriah Jefferson, left, beats BYU's Kim Beeston to a loose ball during the first half Saturday.
UConn's Moriah Jefferson, left, beats BYU's Kim Beeston to a loose ball during the first half Saturday. Dave Weaver/AP Photo
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