Huskies clinch American title
STORRS, CONN. >> UConn coach Geno Auriemma wants to make sure his Huskies don't overlook other milestones as they work toward a fourth straight national title.
Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson matched her season-high with 21 points Wednesday night to lead the Huskies to an 88-41 rout of SMU. That win gave UConn (27-0, 16-0 American Athletic) its third consecutive American Athletic Conference regular-season championship.
The Huskies paused after the game to accept what they hope will be the first of several trophies coming their way over the next few weeks.
"The bad thing about UConn is that you go to so many Final Fours that you don't realize how hard it is, and that there are things along the way that need to be celebrated," Auriemma said.
Breanna Stewart added 14 points and UConn extended the third longest winning streak in NCAA and team history to 64 games.
McKenzie Adams and Gabrielle Wilkins each had 10 points to lead SMU (12-15, 7-9), which was playing its first game since coach Rhonda Rompola announced she would retire at the end of the season.
UConn is now 58-0 against AAC teams during the conference's three-year history, a record that includes both conference tournament titles.
Samuelson, who scored 19 in the Huskies win over East Carolina last Saturday, hit eight of her 13 shots and was 5 of 10 from 3-point range.
She had 16 points by halftime, and became just the eighth UConn freshman to make 50 3-pointers in a season.
"My confidence is up more than it was at the beginning of the season," Samuelson said. "I just feel more comfortable out there to make plays and help out."
Auriemma took her out of the game in the third quarter after her fifth 3-pointer. That gave the Huskies a 47-point lead and gave Samuelson the same number of points as the entire SMU team at that point.
The Mustangs led 6-5 early in the game. But the Huskies scored 14 of the final 16 points of the first quarter to take a 19-8 lead after 10 minutes.
A layup by Morgan Tuck with five minutes left in the half gave UConn its first 20-point lead at 34-14, and it was 50-17 at the halftime.
Tuck had 10 points and eight rebounds in just 22 minutes. It was the first game she has played this season without a brace on her surgically repaired right knee.
"I've practiced without it the last couple days and it feels good," she said. "So, that's a good sign for me."
Moriah Jefferson added 10 points and three assists. Jefferson needs two more assists to reach 600 for her career. She would join Jen Rizzotti as the only players to accrue 600 assists and 300 steals in their UConn careers.
With the exception of Samuelson, the Huskies struggled from 3-point range, making just 2 of 17 shots from behind the arc.
But the Huskies dominated underneath, outscoring SMU 50-12 in the paint and outrebounding the Mustangs 45-35.
Rompola, SMU's coach, said with two regular-season games left in her coaching career she wasn't going to stress about a loss to the nation's top-ranked team.
"I'm trying to be a little more low-key and not as worked up," she said. "In a game like today, I'd probably be getting pretty worked up. So I'm trying to be a little bit more encouraging."
SMU: The Mustangs have lost all six of their meetings with UConn and have never come within 30 points of the Huskies. Their closest game was in February, 2014, when UConn won 81-48 in Dallas. UConn won this season's other meeting 90-37 in Texas last month.
UConn: The Huskies have now won 104 straight games against unranked opponents and have won 280 of their last 281 games against opponents outside of the Top 25.
The regular-season conference title is the 22nd in UConn history, which includes 19 in the old Big East.
SMU: The Mustangs host Houston on Saturday.
UConn: The Huskies host Tulane on Saturday.
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