For 23 minutes, South Florida gave the UConn women’s basketball team all they could handle. A three pointer from freshman Kitija Laksa pulled the Bulls within one, trailing 35-34 with 7:31 left in the third quarter and giving South Florida a prime opportunity to hand the Huskies their first-ever American Athletic Conference loss.
From there, UConn (14-0, 4-0 the American) rattled off a 7-0 run and never looked back, pulling away for a 75-59 victory over the Bulls (10-4, 3-1 the American) at the Sun Dome in Tampa, Florida.
After missing Friday’s game against Houston due to knee soreness, Morgan Tuck made her presence known early, scoring the Huskies’ first six points. South Florida would extend their only lead of the game to eight after a three pointer from Laura Ferreira made it 14-6 with just under four minutes left in the first quarter. The Huskies would finish the quarter on top 17-15 thanks to an 11-1 run spearheaded by six points from Breanna Stewart.
Tuck led the Huskies with 22 points and 12 rebounds for her second double-double of the season. Stewart joined Tuck with a double-double of her own with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Kia Nurse was the only other Husky in double figures, scoring 16 points and shooting 4-8 from the three-point line.
UConn struggled to pull away from the Bulls in the second quarter largely due to the play Courtney Williams, who scored 11 of her game-high 26 points in the second quarter to keep South Florida in striking distance. Williams scored five straight points to end the half and cut the UConn lead to five, with the Huskies up 33-28 at the half.
The senior guard added a team-high 13 rebounds in the losing effort while playing all 40 minutes, and had little help offensively other than Laksa, who scored 17 points and shot 5-7 from beyond the arc. The Bulls sorely missed senior forward and leading rebounder Alisia Jenkins, who sat out the game due to a sprained ankle. Without Jenkins and her 13.3 rebounds per game, the Huskies dominated the boards, outrebounding USF 47-35.
While the Bulls kept things close again in the third quarter, the Huskies put the game out of reach for good two minutes into the final quarter of play with three consecutive three pointers. UConn would stretch the lead to as much as 21 after a four-point stretch from Nurse gave the Huskies a 69-48 lead with 4:46 remaining.
South Florida managed to put together a comeback attempt late with three straight three pointers of their own to trail by just 12 with 3:40 remaining, but the Huskies would hold the Bulls to just one basket to finish the game to hand USF their first conference loss of the season.
The 16-point margin of victory marked the closest regular-season conference win for the Huskies since joining the American in the 2013-14 season. The victory also marked the 107th straight win for the Huskies in which they defeated their opponent by at least 10 points.