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UConn sprints past RMU; Stewart eclipses Lobo for blocks

The UConn Huskies kicked off their 28th straight NCAA Tournament appearance with a bang, handling the Colonials of Robert Morris in the first round. The Huskies took care of business in front of a favorable crowd at Gampel Pavilion, and looked like the overall top seed in the tournament. UConn entered the Big Dance as a No. 1 seed for the tenth consecutive season.

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Storrs, Conn. - The UConn Huskies quest for a fourth straight National Championship is officially underway, after UConn dominated their first round opponent Robert Morris at Gampel Pavilion Saturday, 101-49.

The Huskies have now won 70 straight games, but more importantly, are five wins away from history.

Saying UConn came ready to play would be putting it nicely. The Huskies opened the game with back-to-back threes. Add in some swarming defense, and one could imagine what would happen next.

UConn jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first 3:10 of the game, causing Robert Morris to call a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Colonials traveled before crossing half court, and the route was on. Robert Morris would go over five minutes before getting their second bucket of the game, and at that point the Huskies had already put 25 up on the scoreboard.

The first quarter would end without Robert Morris scoring another bucket, with the UConn lead 41-4. The Colonials committed 13 turnovers over the first ten minutes, most of them caused by the long and aggressive Husky players. UConn held Robert Morris to only two field goals and 17 percent shooting in the first quarter.

"Those first ten minutes are about as good of a way you can start a game in the NCAA Tournament, not having played in 12 days," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "This team is pretty locked in and pretty focused about what were trying to do."

Katie Lou Samuelson and Breanna Stewart scored ten each in the first, while Morgan Tuck adding nine of her own. Samuelson would continue her stelar play in the second, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting at the break. The Huskies outscored the Colonials by 12 in the second quarter, increasing their halftime lead to 49.

UConn opened the second half with four quick points, capped off by a steal and run-out by Moriah Jefferson. Jefferson finished with 14 points and two steals. The Husky lead would improve to as many as 61 in the quarter, their largest of the game to that point.

Samuelson led all scorers with 22 points, including 3-for-4 from behind the arc. Stewart added 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Stewart is now the all-time blocks leader in UConn history, passing Rebecca Lobo.

Anna Nikki Stamolamprou had a team-high 11 points for Robert Morris, the only player on her team in double figures.

The story of the game was turnovers. The Colonials turned the ball over 29 times, including 20 in the first half. Those turnovers lead to 50 UConn points, and that just cannot happen when playing this Husky team, who converts turnovers into points so easily.

Robert Morris got smacked in the mouth early, and never lead the three-time defending National Champs. The game was only tied at the very beginning for a mere 19 seconds.

"I'm so proud of my players," Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia said, after the last game of his 38 year career. "To be down that type of deficit, giving up 41 points in the first quarter, then to come back like that and play to the final horn, (that's what) we always talk about at Robert Morris basketball. I am so proud of the way they finished."