The No. 1 UConn women’s basketball team wasted no time getting things started in the opening round of the NCAA tournament against No. 16 Robert Morris.
The Huskies (33-0) put together their highest-scoring quarter of the season to open NCAA tournament play, leading 41-4 after one period of play en route to 101-49 victory over the Colonials.
“Those first ten minutes, it’s about as good a way as you can start a game, start a tournament,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “Not having played in 12 days, you don’t what you’re going to get when you come out, but this team is pretty locked in.
UConn showed no signs of rust against the Colonials, scoring 19 seconds into the game and never looking back as they began of the most impressive quarters in program history, even by their astronomically high standards.
“I didn’t know we could do that,” Auriemma said of his team’s first-quarter performance. “I didn’t know we were capable of doing that after not playing for 12 days.”
After scoring 43 seconds into the game, Robert Morris (20-13) would go 5:06 without a basket before a jumper from Anna Niki Stamolamprou with 4:11 left in the first quarter made it 25-4. Stamolamprou’s jumper would be the final basket of the quarter for the Colonials, as UConn would finish the quarter on a 16-0 run. Minutes later, a layup from Breanna Stewart with 2:40 left to play gave the Huskies a 34-4 lead, and UConn would tack on seven more points to make it 41-4.
The Huskies held RMU to just 17 percent from the field on 2-12 shooting and scored 21 of their 41 points off of 13 Colonials turnovers. UConn also had eight steals and shot a blistering 64 percent from the field, including 4-7 (57 percent) from the 3-point line.
“They just go to a whole different speed, I just can’t lie about it,” Colonials’ senior guard Ashley Ravelli said. “They just go to a whole different speed, so we had to adjust.”
Stamolamprou and Megan Smith scored two points each for Robert Morris in the first quarter. Stewart and Katie Lou Samuelson led the way for UConn with 10 points each. Morgan Tuck added nine points, Moriah Jefferson had seven and Kia Nurse had five as all five starters played the entire first quarter and individually outscored the Colonials.
Samuelson would finish the day with a career-high 22 points and a program record for most points in an NCAA tournament debut.
“I feel more confident and comfortable on the court, and I know I can do a lot of things to help out my team, and I’m going to have to do that now that it’s tournament time,” Samuelson said. “I’m just trying to keep building on what I’ve done and not let up.”
Amidst all of the scoring for the Huskies in first quarter, Stewart reached yet another impressive milestone in her four-year career at UConn. The senior forward became the Huskies’ all-time leader in blocks, tying and eventually passing Rebecca Lobo’s record of 396.
Stewart tied Lobo just under 90 seconds into the first quarter with her first block of the day. She would come into sole possession of the record with another block as the first quarter came to a close, and added another block to finish with three blocks on the day and 398 in her career.
“I blocked shots in high school and that kind of thing, but with Rebecca Lobo being number one, she blocked a lot of shots and she did in fewer games, so I think she still holds that record if you look at it that way,” Stewart said of passing Lobo, who reached 396 blocks in 126 games compared to Stewart’s 147. “Blocking shots is a lot of fun.”