UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP)No. 9 UConn lost to Marquette in February. However, it’s March now and the Huskies are playing at a different level.
Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhasz each put up double-doubles for the second consecutive game, Nika Muhl added another and Connecticut advanced to its 19th straight conference tournament final with an 81-52 rout of the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles in the Big East Tournament on Sunday.
“We definitely have a different edge to us when March comes, when the games really, really, really matter,” Muhl said. “I think our energy was great today, our defense was amazing and we’re just going to continue to keep that up, because now every game matters.”
Edwards scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Juhasz scored 14 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Muhl did it a bit differently, with 11 points and 10 assists.
Lou Lopez Senechal added 14 points and Aubrey Griffin had 11 for the Huskies (28-5), who are seeking a 10th straight league tournament title. UConn will play Villanova on Monday night for tourney title.
Liza Karlen scored 18 points and Mackenzie Hare added 15 for Marquette (21-10).
The top-seeded Huskies held Marquette to 30% shooting, outrebounded the Golden Eagles 45-32 and outscored them 48-8 in the paint.
“The game, as it’s played here in college still, you have to have a tremendous presence in the lane on both ends of the floor,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “And today, that’s exactly what we did.”
Connecticut never trailed and used an 18-4 run that stretched from the second quarter into the third to blow open the game.
Lopez Senechal scored the Huskies’ first five points, part of an opening 9-2 run and the Huskies led 20-12 after the first quarter.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Jordan King and Hare highlighted an 8-0 Marquette run that cut the UConn lead to 25-20.
But Marquette’s Chloe Marotta, who came in averaging almost 15 points a game, picked up her third foul with 3 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. She finished with just two points on 1 of 9 shooting.
UConn went on a 12-2 run over the last five minutes of the half to take a 37-22 lead. The Huskies extended that in the third quarter and took their first 20-point lead at 46-26 lead on Aubrey Griffin’s jumper.
The Huskies will play Monday night for their third straight Big East Tournament title since rejoining the league after winning seven straight in the American Athletic Conference.
Marquette: The fifth-seeded Golden Eagles might have earned an NCAA Tournament bid with their 10-point win over No. 4 seed St. John’s in the quarterfinals. The program, which was playing in its seventh consecutive Big East semifinal, also has that 59-52 home win over UConn last month on its resume.
“Our strength of schedule is pretty good, our NET (ranking) looking pretty good,” coach Megan Duffy said. “So, I hope the body of work outside of tonight’s game will be recognized.”
UConn: UConn hasn’t lost in a Big East semifinal since Boston College earned a win in 2004. The Huskies went on to win the national championship that season.
The Huskies are hoping the return of star guard Azzi Fudd in this tournament could propel them the same way last year’s return of Paige Bueckers from injury late in the season sparked their run to a 14th straight Final Four. Fudd played in her second straight game after missing 22 this season with a pair of knee injuries. She had four points in 20 minutes. Caroline Ducharme, who took a blow to the head on Saturday after recently returning from a concussion, played just 13 minutes and scored two points.
Auriemma said he expects both to be able to play as needed by the time the NCAA Tournament begins.
UConn will play No. 11 Villanova on Monday night. The Wildcats edged Creighton 63-61 on Sunday, led by 37 points from Maddy Siegrist.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25