Record-setting Connecticut to meet Quinnipiac
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Twenty years after their only matchup, No. 1 seed Connecticut will play Quinnipiac on Monday in the second round of the NCAA Women's Tournament at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.
Though the schools are located some 55 miles from each other, they might as well be a million miles apart in expectations.
At least they were in 1998, when the Huskies scored the biggest win in program history over the Bobcats 117-20.
Connecticut (33-0) is coming off another brutal landslide -- a 150-52 victory over St. Francis (Pa.) in Saturday's first round -- the Huskies are well on their way in their quest for their fifth national championship in six seasons, a year after losing in the Final Four in overtime last season to Mississippi State.
"Once the pace was established, it just became, for us, 'How many layups can we get? And how many open shots can we get?" UConn coach Geno Auriemma told reporters after his team led 94-31 at halftime en route to scoring the most points in an NCAA Women's Tournament game and recording the second-largest margin of victory.
Added Huskies star Katie Lou Samuelson: "I don't think we were really aware (of the margin). 'We were aware of how quickly we were going up and down the court at that first media timeout. But, we were just getting a lot of opportunities and taking advantage of them whenever we could."
This time around, though, Quinnipiac (28-5) is no longer a patsy, and maybe no longer even a Cinderella.
After advancing to the Sweet 16 last season as a 12-seed, the Bobcats already had earned more respect this season, getting a No. 9 seed after a 22-game winning streak and a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title.
Their first-round opponent? The same as last year's second-round matchup, Miami, The eighth-seeded Hurricanes instead watched their season end once more at the hands of Quinnipiac, which had six players in double figures and held the Miami bench to two points in Saturday's 86-72 victory.
"We're just going to play as hard as we can," said Aryn McClure after nearly totaling a triple-double with 13 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. "To be the best you have to play against the best, so let's get the matchup going."
If the UConn reserves broke off and formed their own team, they might even get a top-five seed.
On Saturday, it was UConn backup Azura Stevens who led the way, scoring 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds in 15 minutes. The Husky reserves outscored St. Francis 62-52.
The Bobcats are going to have to put that in the back of their minds as they advance to the second round in back-to-back years for the first time.
"These young ladies love a big stage," Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri said. "They rise to these challenges. They want to be in March, they want to be winning games in March. Their mindset and mentality, this is the best time of the year and their having the most fun time of the year."
Updated March 18, 2018