- Kate Fagan, Columnist, espnW.com
- 0 Shares
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Quick reaction to Connecticut's 83-53 win over Kentucky, which clinched the Huskies an NCAA-record sixth consecutive Final Four appearance:
Overview: Connecticut absolutely overwhelmed Kentucky, outperforming the Wildcats in every facet of the game. Top-seeded UConn put a little burst on Kentucky midway through the first half, and the Wildcats were completely helpless to respond. In fact, No. 2 seed Kentucky scored only one basket -- a banked 3-pointer from the right wing -- in the final 9 minutes of the first half. Connecticut went to its locker room leading 48-26, and the second half played like a mere formality, with UConn building a lead of as many as 36 points before winning by 30.
Turning point: It wasn't so much a single moment as a stretch of play during the first half. Kentucky actually took a 23-22 lead with 9:07 left in the first. A few seconds later, UConn guard Caroline Doty hit a 3-pointer from the left corner that started a 26-3 run, which is how the Huskies closed the half. Connecticut scored every which way -- from outside, in transition, on the block -- while all Kentucky managed during this stretch was a 3-pointer that inadvertently banked in.
Key player: Breanna Stewart, no question. The UConn freshman forward was the game's most important player in the first half, which was the only half that really mattered. She finished those first 20 minutes with 13 points (on 4-for-7 shooting), two rebounds and two blocks. She paced the Huskies right from tip off, leading them to incredible first-half team shooting numbers of 58.1 percent from the floor, 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and 90 percent from the line. Most importantly, Stewart's size -- she is 6 feet, 4 inches -- proved to be an impossible matchup for Kentucky, which often had a guard defending Stewart. She finished the game with 21 points.
Key stat: 25 percent -- that would be Kentucky's percentage from the 3-point line.The Wildcats finished the night 4-for-16 from deep. It became clear early in this game that the Wildcats only stood a chance if they could put together an above-average night from beyond the arc. Of course, that did not happen.
What's next: Connecticut advances to its 14th Final Four in program history and sixth consecutive. The Huskies await the winner of Tuesday night's game between Notre Dame and Duke, which meet in the finals of the Norfolk Regional. Connecticut will be playing for its first national title since 2010 and eighth overall. Kentucky ends its season with a record of 30-6, but graduates only one starter: guard A'dia Mathies, the SEC's co-player of the year.
18dBonnie D. Ford