UConn women make quick work of Robert Morris in NCAA opener
Storrs — It's almost counterintuitive to think a corridor into history could start under such peculiar circumstances.
UConn, long since established as the Broadway of women's basketball, must have felt it was playing Peoria at times Saturday, what with the unusual start time (11 a.m.), 5,000 empty seats and an opponent so overmatched it could consider application into the American.
But the Huskies, with their typical assassin-like focus, began their path to the program's 11th national title — and a record fourth straight for the senior class — with a 101-49 win over 16th-seeded Robert Morris at Gampel Pavilion.
It was top-seeded UConn's 70th straight win.
The Huskies (33-0) play No. 9 Duquesne at 9 p.m. Monday for their 23rd straight trip to the Sweet 16 and 24th overall. Duquesne defeated No. 8 Seton Hall 97-76 in Saturday's other game at Gampel.
While the rest of the country is awash in halfcourt shots, buzzer beaters and other assorted examples of drama, the Huskies were ahead 41-4 after the first period. Put it this way: Until Robert Morris' Anna Niki Stamolamprou made a 3-pointer with 1:42 left in the first half, Stamolamprou had more letters in her last name (11) than the Colonials had points.
The Huskies did, however, fail to cover the 57-point point spread established by Las Vegas casinos.
"There's not much to say," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You kind of saw the first 10 minutes. That's about as good of a way to start a game and a tournament as you can have. Not having played in 12 days, you don't know how you are going to come out."
Katie Lou Samuelson led UConn with 22 points, while Breanna Stewart had 18. Mo Jefferson, Napheesa Collier and Kia Nurse scored 14 points apiece and Morgan Tuck finished with 13.
"We tried to do our best today," Stamolamprou said. "We just saw the No. 1 team in the country and how hard they work."
Auriemma, who may not use his bench as much as the tournament progresses, played everyone but Tierney Lawlor and Briana Pulido at least 10 minutes.
"They go to a whole different speed," Robert Morris guard Ashley Ravelli said. "I can't lie about it. Yes, we practiced and yes, we had a great scout team, but they're at a whole other speed."
Robert Morris, which finished third in the Northeast Conference during the regular season, won the tournament title and sent coach Sal Buscaglia out with at least that much. Buscaglia retired after Saturday's game, following a 38-year career.
"They make it so hard because they're such good kids," Buscaglia said of his players, later calling the UConn kids "all class. It's an honor to have been here for this privilege."
Monday's game will be the final game on campus for seniors Jefferson and Stewart and very likely the last one for Tuck, who is pondering whether to complete her athletic eligibility at UConn or declare for the WNBA draft.
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