HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)UConn is rounding into familiar form just in time for the postseason.
Megan Walker scored 23 points and the fifth-ranked Huskies completed their seventh consecutive undefeated American Athletic Conference regular season with an 80-39 rout of South Florida on Monday night.
Crystal Dangerfield, Christyn Williams and Aubrey Griffin each added 13 points for the Huskies (26-3, 16-0), who improved to 136-0 against AAC opponents, including all six conference tournaments. They open play in this season’s tournament on Saturday, in the familiar position as the top seed.
Since losing to top-ranked South Carolina by 18 points on Feb. 10, UConn has won six in a row, the last three by an average of better than 46 points.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” Walker said. “We’ve been through ups and downs this season, so to put together a good stretch where we’re putting up points, we’re stopping people, we’re running in transition, it looks fun.”
Sydni Harvey had 16 points for South Florida (18-12, 10-6), which had won three straight.
The Huskies never trailed South Florida and put the game away early, jumping out to a 22-4 lead behind 10 first-quarter points from Walker.
A three-point play by Dangerfield highlighted a 19-0 run in the second quarter and gave the Huskies their first 30-plus-point lead at 42-10. A 3-pointer by Anna Marurat put the Huskies up 53-14 at the half.
The Bulls had more turnovers (15) than points before intermission and ended the half with just four baskets on 30 shots.
“For us to have a chance, we can’t turn the ball over and shoot so poorly, and give up as many transition baskets as we did,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said.
UConn has never lost to South Florida, improving to 31-0 in the teams’ final scheduled meeting. They beat the Bulls by 20 points in Florida on Feb. 16.
UConn is moving from the American to the Big East next season.
“The goal when we got into the league was to win the league every year,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I don’t think we set a goal like, ‘Let’s go undefeated for the entire time we’re in this league.’ It just kind of happened.”
South Florida: The Bulls came into the game averaging just under 66 points per game on 40% shooting from the floor. The Huskies held them to 26% (15 of 57). USF was 2 of 19 from 3-point range.
“That was as good a defensive performance as we’ve had all season long,” Auriemma said. “We’ve had some good ones, but I think tonight was the best one that we’ve had.”
UConn: The Huskies moved back into the Top 5 on Monday and were listed as a potential No. 2 seed in a preview of the women’s NCAA Tournament field. According to the reveal, they would play in the Portland regional with top-seeded Oregon. The top 16 teams in the tournament would host first- and second-round games.
UConn scored 23 points off 18 USF turnovers and outscored the Bulls 16-2 on the fast break and 36-10 in the paint.
MISSING THE HUSKIES
Fernandez said the Huskies’ departure from the AAC will mean fewer losses and a better chance at a league championship for teams like his. But he’s still unhappy to see UConn leave.
“You’ve got to think about the big picture,” Fernandez said. “Us coaches want to coach against the best and our players want to play against the best. If you play against UConn twice or three times, those are three strength-of-schedule games against a team that has a top-five-or-eight RPI every year. How are you going to make that up?”
Sought Florida: The Bulls have secured a bye in the AAC tournament and will play Saturday as the fourth seed against either Tulane or Tulsa. That means they could play the Huskies again on Sunday.
UConn: The top-seeded Huskies play their first AAC tournament game on Saturday against the winner of the first-round game between Temple and East Carolina.
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