Connecticut women erase No. 1 question with rout of South Carolina

Connecticut women erase No. 1 question with rout of South Carolina
South Carolina guard Khadijah Sessions looks to pass around Connecticut guard Moriah Jefferson from her knee. (Jessica Hill / Associated Press)

Connecticut left no doubt which is the best women's team in the country.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 23 points and Breanna Stewart added 22 to help No. 2 Connecticut beat top-ranked South Carolina, 87-62, on Monday night.


"I think it speaks for itself," Stewart said.

Still, there is a lot of basketball left to be played before the Final Four in Tampa this year. And, Coach Geno Auriemma knows that he could see the Gamecocks again.

"I think this was one night, one game in February," Auriemma said. "They are going to be playing deep into the NCAA tournament. I told Dawn [Staley], I hope we play them in Tampa. That would be pretty special."

This was the 54th meeting between the top two teams in the nation, and the 20th time that the Huskies have been involved in that matchup. They improved to 17-3 in those games.

Moriah Jefferson had 16 points for the Huskies (23-1).

The teams traded baskets early and South Carolina (22-1) led 18-15 before Connecticut took over. The Huskies scored the next 13 points to blow the game open. Jefferson got it started with a three-point play. Morgan Tuck and Mosqueda-Lewis added three-pointers as Connecticut led 28-18.

Bianca Cuevas hit a floater with 8:48 left to end the drought for South Carolina, but it was short-lived. The Huskies scored the next eight.

"We played unbelievably well, played great on defense," Auriemma said.

The Huskies led by 16 at the half, and South Carolina could only get within 10 the rest of the way.

Aleighsa Welch and Tiffany Mitchell each scored 17 to lead the Gamecocks.

"We're not stunned. This is no way, shape or form the defining point in our season," Welch said. "We have to evaluate the film, ourselves. Learn from it and move on."

The matchup of the top two teams was a hot ticket. Not even a blizzard that dropped about a foot of snow in the area could keep fans away. Students arrived more than two hours before the game. Awaiting them were T-shirts with the phrase "Basketball Capital of the World" adorning the front. Even the 600 fans who couldn't make it turned in their tickets so that students on campus could attend to make this game a sellout. This was the first on-campus sellout for Connecticut since last season's senior day.

"I can't say enough about all the fans that braved the elements to come out here. That's pretty special," Auriemma said.

It's not often that Connecticut has best host to a No. 1 team in the nation. Usually, it's the Huskies who are the top team in the country. South Carolina has been No. 1 in the poll the last 12 weeks since Connecticut suffered its only loss of the season at Stanford.


Assuming the Huskies can beat Tulane on Saturday, they will reclaim the No. 1 position in the poll. That's not too much of a stretch to believe since Connecticut has won its conference games this season by nearly 50 points a game.

With about a minute left, the student section started chanting, "We're No. 1."