UConn's youngest players have the Huskies back in an old and familiar spot.
Freshmen Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck combined for 35 points as UConn (32-4) advanced to their eighth straight regional final with a 76-50 blowout over Maryland on Saturday.
"I think we were 16 for 28 from the floor, our freshmen," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "One turnover between the three of them. I thought they were the key to the game today for sure."
Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis each had 17 points to lead the Huskies. Stewart also had eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
Jefferson made several key defensive stops and her two fast-break layups capped a 9-0 run to start the second half, giving UConn a 44-26 lead and control of the game.
"We got in a nice offensive flow," she said. "Once the transition game came, then the offensive flow was right there."
Her layup midway through the half stretched the lead to 60-38. She finished with 10 points and Tuck had eight as the Huskies bench outscored Maryland's 25-0.
"They didn't play like freshmen at all," center Stefanie Dolson said. "They came out confident and ready to play. They knew what they needed to do for our team and what they can do."
Two-time ACC player of the year Alyssa Thomas, who had scored 29 and 28 points in the team's first two tournament games, was held to 13 for Maryland, which finished its season at 26-8. Tianna Hawkins and Chloe Pavlech each had 11 points for the Terps.
Maryland trailed 35-26 at the half and went scoreless for the first 3 minutes after intermission allowing UConn to blow the game open.
"I thought we'd come out of the locker room with a lot more energy," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "They came with a knockout punch in the second half."
The Huskies will play Kentucky on Monday night in a rematch of last year's regional final, which was played just over 100 miles away in Kingston, R.I. UConn won that game 80-65.
The Wildcats beat Delaware 69-62 earlier Saturday.
Connecticut will be playing in a regional final for the 19th time. The Huskies have made five consecutive trips to the Final Four and are seeking their eighth national title.
It was the second win over Maryland this season for UConn. The Huskies won by 15 points in the Jimmy V Classic in December. Thomas had just six points in that game, and the Huskies held the Terps to just 48 points, their lowest output this season. They also were outrebounded 39-35, one of just five times that happened this season.
Maryland came into the game ranked second in the nation in rebounding margin, grabbing more than 14 more boards per game than its opponents. The Terps had outrebounded opponents in 32 of their first 33 games.
But UConn won that battle this time around 41-36.
"We were really looking forward to getting back on the court," Stewart said. "We knew Maryland was very physical and we just wanted to come out and disrupt them defensively."
Maryland hit just seven of its first 23 shots, but was 4 of 7 from 3-point range during that span, and trailed just 23-20 midway through the first half.
But 3-pointers from Bria Hartley and Kelly Faris pushed the lead to nine, and started a 12-1 run.
The Huskies looked as if they were about to extend that further, when Faris drove to the basket and appeared to take a hard foul. But there was no whistle, infuriating coach Geno Auriemma, who received a technical foul.
Thomas made one of two foul shots, then hit a jump shot that cut the lead to nine 35-26 at halftime.
UConn is 44-4 in NCAA tournament games played in the state and 8-1 in Bridgeport.
UConn's lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.
Maryland was in its 10th regional semifinal and looking to make back-to-back trips to the regional final despite losing three players this season to ACL injuries, including the expected starting backcourt, guards Brene Moseley and Laurin Mincy.
"Next year we'll have plenty of numbers, a full roster," Thomas said. "Not to take away from this season, but looking forward to next season, we're going to be a tough team to stop next year."