Bridgeport, CT -- Breanna Stewart showed why she is the best player in the country from the opening tip, as the UConn Huskies dominated the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Bridgeport Regional Semifinal, 98-38. The win is the Huskies 21st consecutive victory in the NCAA Tournament, tying them with Tennessee who owns the record.
Stewart finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds in just 25 minutes, her 40th career double-double, as well as her seventh career NCAA Tournament double-double. She is now tied for second all-time in UConn history, only behind Maya Moore, who recorded eight in her career.
Katie Lou Samuelson led all scorers with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting, while Morgan Tuck added 19 points and six rebounds for the three-time defending National Champs.
Moriah Jefferson scored only seven points, but with four assists and four steals, she moves into second place on the all-time steals and assists lists in UConn history.
Teaira McCowan was the high scorers for the Bulldogs with eight points, as her team struggled to score for much of the game. Victoria Vivians only had six points on 3-of-15 shooting, after scoring 24 in her team's win over Michigan State in the Round of 32.
Stewart hit her first shot on UConn's first offensive possession of the game, and the route was on. The Huskies opened the game on a 11-0 run in the first 3:36 of the first quarter, and Stewart was putting her mark on the game in every way imaginable. She was scoring, rebounding and altering shots when she was not blocking them. Stewart had 14 points and seven rebounds in the first quarter alone.
"The game plan is similar to every single game plan," Stewart said. "We want to disrupt them defensively. Vivians is a great player for them, and we wanted to make sure it was hard for her to get shots. We had to do that with team defense.
"It seemed early on we were able to get a lot of open shots, get out in transition and from there, everything seemed to be flowing."
Mississippi State scored their first bucket of the game nearly halfway through the quarter, and started the game 1-12 from the floor. The Bulldogs would be held to only two field goals through the first ten minutes, as UConn scored 24 of the games first 26 points.
Moriah Jefferson capped off the first quarter with a tough 15-foot jumper over two Mississippi State defenders, summing up how the game was going for the Bulldogs.
The Huskies entered the second quarter leading by 28, and were having their way all over the court. UConn made 12 of the 17 shots they took in the first, and carried that good shooting touch into the second.
"We've got some seniors that have played in a lot of games, and a lot of big games," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "When they show up and play the way they did today, it's hard for anybody to play against us. Our offense was one thing, but the way we played defense today was pretty magnificent. I'm really proud of them."
The Huskies ended the first half on a 13-0 run, and took a 61-12 lead into the break. UConn had three players in double figures at halftime, including Stewart, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds at the intermission.
The second half was more of Mississippi State being clearly overmatched at just about every position. The Huskies would continue cruising, and would take a 64-point lead into the final ten minutes. UConn would win by 60, their largest margin of the tournament so far.
"I'm disappointed we didn't play better," Mississippi State Coach Vic Schaefer said. "I'll take full responsibility for that. At the end of the day, it's my job to have my team ready, and honestly we probably weren't ready."
Jefferson finished with four assists, one shy of tying the program record for assists over at two-season span. Sue Bird currently holds that record with 400 assists in the same timeframe.