Storrs, CT -- The UConn Huskies are heading back to the Sweet 16 for the 23rd consecutive year, after wearing down Duquesne, 97-51. The Dukes played a solid first quarter, but did not have enough firepower to combat the Huskies physicality on both ends of the floor.
Each member of UConn's "Big 3" finished with at least 20 points, but each left their mark on the game in a different way. Moriah Jefferson hit big shot after big shot in UConn's second-round game, while also dishing out seven assists. Jefferson now sits in third place in UConn history with 634 dimes after passing Renee Montgomery on the all-time list.
Breanna Stewart did it all, and recorded yet another double-double. Stewart grabbed 16 rebounds to go along with her 21 points. Stewart was constantly attacking the offensive glass, snatching five offensive rebounds. Morgan Tuck was also a presence down low, grabbing nine rebounds to go along with seven assists.
"To come out and play this well, for all three of us to have a huge impact on the game, you couldn't write it any better for our last home game here," Breanna Stewart said. "It gives us great momentum going into next weekend.
"I've been saying this pretty much all year, that whenever the games get bigger, and the stakes get higher as the season goes along, our three seniors play even better than they normally play," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It was really something to see the way they feed off each other, and they way they instill confidence in their teammates. It was the perfect way to end this part of their career."
Deva'Nyar Workman lead the way for Duquesne, scoring 17 points, while her teammate April Robinson added 16 points in the losing effort. The only other player in double figures for the Dukes was Kadri-Ann Lass, who had 10 points.
Duquesne came out and threw the first punch, but it was far from enough to even put a scare into the Huskies. Robinson hit back-to-back threes for the Dukes, giving them a 6-3 lead early.
UConn would respond with a 10-0 run, and lead 13-8 after the first five minutes of the game. Duquesne was living and dying by the three early, not making their first shot inside the arc until the 2:27 mark.
"Yeah, it was going to according to plan," Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. "I couldn't be any more proud of how we came out in the first quarter. We didn't play perfect by any stretch, but we played well. We gave them everything we had, and they just wear you down. Everyone who plays them says that: they just wear you down and grind you down. They're in tremendous shape."
Only shooting threes will only work for song long against UConn. The Huskies lead by six after the first quarter, and began to tighten their grip on the game thanks to their defense. Neither team scored over the first 3:24 of the second, but when the scoring started, it never seemed to stop.
Robinson hit one of her three first-half three-pointers to get her team within three, but it would be all UConn the rest of the first half. The Huskies would score the next ten points as part of a 19-2 run that would finally give them some breathing room.
"I kinda had a sense that the game was going to start a little funny because they are emotional, and they're in a hurry to get up a bunch," Auriemma said. "Once we got that squared away, and once they settled in, you knew what was going to happen. Duquesne is not the type of team that is going to let you whatever you want. They made Stewie work."
Stewart asserted herself all over the court in the second quarter, blocking three shots on one Duquesne possession that forced a shot clock violation. Stewart had eleven rebounds through the first two-quarters, and the big advantage for her team in the first half was on the backboards.
UConn out-rebounded the Dukes 30-18 in the first half, including 11-5 on the offensive glass. The Huskies turned those eleven offensive rebounds into 14-second chance points.
"A lot of times, we're not a really good offensive rebounding team because we shoot (a high) percentage from the floor," Auriemma said. "We shoot, and we run back on defense because they're just convinced it's going in.
"When Stewie goes for the offensive rebound, it's not like anybody else going for an offensive rebound. She had a couple of follow-ups today (where) I said there's nobody else doing this kind of stuff. She's pretty amazing."
UConn led 42-21 at the intermission, holding Duquesne to seven points in the second quarter, after the Dukes scored double that in the first.
The second half was more of what we saw in the second quarter from the Huskies: suffocating defense and a constant attack on the offensive glass. The Dukes had trouble all game keeping the likes of Stewart and Tuck out of the paint. UConn continued pulling away in the third, outscoring Duquesne by 15 in the quarter.
The Huskies lead by 36 to open the fourth, and did not let up in their final game at Gampel Pavilion this season. UConn would go on to win their second 2016 NCAA Tournament game by another large margin, this time by 46 points.
UConn has now won 49 of their last 50 NCAA Tournament games they have played in the state of Connecticut. Unfortunately for everyone else in the tournament, the Huskies are in the Bridgeport Region, meaning their next two games would also be taking place in their home state.