UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP)UConn’s two freshmen didn’t seem to be affected by the pressure of their first postseason game.
Aubrey Griffin came off the bench to put up the second double-double of her career, grabbing a season-high 16 rebounds to go with her 15 points and the fifth-ranked Huskies routed Temple 94-61 in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
Fellow freshman Anna Makurat added 14 points and had eight assists.
Senior Crystal Dangerfield scored 22 points to lead six UConn players in double-figures.
Megan Walker (17 points), Olivia Nelson-Ododa (12) and Christyn Williams (12) all contributed to the balanced scoring attack for the top-seeded Huskies (27-3).
”Everyone’s touching the ball, which is huge for us,” Walker said. ”And everyone’s cutting and everyone’s knocking in open shots, so it just elevates our game even more for the tournament.”
UConn shot 46% from the floor, despite making just five of its 16 first-quarter shots. The Huskies hit 14 of their 26 shots from 3-point range.
”We were pushing the ball,” Dangerfield said. ”And when we push the ball the defense is scrambling, looking for cutters going to the rim and when you do that, you leave the 3-point line open.”
Mia Davis had 21 points and Ashley Jones scored 13 for the eighth-seeded Owls.
Jones hit a 3-pointer to open the game and Temple led 9-2 early.
But a layup by Griffin, who came in after Nelson-Ododa picked up two first-quarter fouls, gave the Huskies a 15-13 lead after 10 minutes.
She had 12 points and 10 rebounds by halftime.
”I just went in there and kind of did my thing,” Griffin said. ”I just had the mentality just to be aggressive and just to play defense and do what I do.”
A 3-pointer and three foul shots by Makurat on consecutive possessions gave UConn its first double-digit lead at 33-20. A 3-pointer from Walker gave the Huskies their first 20-point lead at 47-27 and UConn took a 47-28 lead into halftime.
An 8-0 third quarter run from UConn, capped by another 3-pointer from Makurat, helped UConn pull away. It was 73-46 after three quarters.
The Huskies held Temple to 36.2% shooting and the Owls made just five of 27 3-point attempts.
”We were getting wide open shots, but we didn’t make them,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. ”They were getting those same open shots. They made them.”
The Huskies are now 19-0 in AAC tournament play after finishing 118-0 during the conference’s seven regular seasons. UConn is leaving the conference after this postseason to return to the Big East.
GOING TO THE RIM
Griffin got into the lane and drew nine fouls on Temple players. She hit 11 of her 17 shots from the free throw line. Eight of her 16 rebounds came on the offensive end.
The win was UConn’s 211th straight against unranked opponents. The Huskies also have gone 991 games without losing twice in a row, a streak that dates to 1993.
Temple: Temple was coming off a 67-57 win over East Carolina in the tournament’s first-round. But the Owls had some recent struggles, losing four straight and six of their final eight regular-season games.
UConn: The Huskies improved to 15-2 against Temple, including an 83-54 win in Philadelphia in November. UConn’s two losses to the Owls came in 1981 and 1982, long before the Huskies were a power in women’s basketball.
Temple ends the season at 16-15, but is hoping for some type of postseason berth.
”I felt like we let some games slip away that we could have definitely been sitting here knowing that we were going to postseason,” Cardoza said. ”Now, we left it in somebody else’s hands.”
UConn: The Huskies play South Florida in the semifinals on Sunday. The Bulls beat Tulane 64-50 in Saturday’s first quarterfinal. The two teams met Monday in the regular-season finale, a game won by UConn 80-39.
”We’re going to have to play a little differently, take care of the basketball, shorten the game, make sure the ball moves better,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said.
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