St. Francis, Brooklyn coach John Thurston knew just what to say to his players after his 16th-seeded Terriers got their expected whipping at the hands of No. 1 UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"I told the girls if we played anybody else in the tournament we'd have killed them, but it's going to take the eventual national champion to beat us," Thurston joked
The Terriers (15-19) soaked in the atmosphere and didn't do much scoreboard watching during their 89-33 loss to the Huskies.
Sarah Benedetti, who grew up about 40 miles away in Canton, Connecticut, had 13 points for St. Francis (15-19), which was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance.
Benedetti, who brought a large contingent of fans to the game, said it was a dream come true for her to play on the same floor where she cheered her childhood heroes — Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore.
"I knew UConn's fans would be lively and it was nice to have the support of my family and friends back home from Canton who came to the game. Regardless of the outcome, I had such a great time and it was such an enjoyable experience that I will remember forever."
UConn forward Morgan Tuck, who missed last season's NCAA Tournament with a knee injury, had 26 points and eight assists, both career highs to lead the Huskies, who are pursuing a 10th national title and third in a row.
Tuck, who outscored the Terriers 20-14 in the first half, was 12 for 13 from the floor for the Huskies (33-1), who won their 32nd straight game.
Connecticut star Breanna Stewart finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Huskies shot 70 percent from the floor and held the Terriers to just 22 percent and 13 baskets. UConn improved to 23-2 in the opening round, where it has not lost since 1993.
St. Francis stayed with the Huskies for the first few minutes, trailing just 16-11 after a Benedetti 3-pointer. But UConn scored the next 18 points.
The Huskies outscored St. Francis 68-6 in the paint and outrebounded the Terriers 44-21.
"We knew they were undersized," Stewart said. "And Morgan was being a monster in the paint. I was trying to look for her as often as I could, because she had such a mismatch inside."
Freshman Gabby Williams, who capped UConn's first big run with a pair of layups, finished with 15 points and six rebounds. She made each of her seven shots from the floor.
UConn led 47-14 at the half. Williams' layup with 12:26 left gave the Huskies their first 40-point lead at 64-24 and it was 76-26 about four minutes later.
Kia Nurse had 12 points, and Kiah Stokes had six of the Huskies' nine blocked shots. UConn improved to 98-17 in NCAA Tournament play.
St. Francis had won eight of its previous nine games, including three consecutive road games to win their first NEC Tournament championship.
"I'm much more of a fan of sustained excellence than I am of the underdog," Thurston said. "And it's just a tremendous tribute to the UConn program that they're able to sustain it and they sustain it throughout the whole game, too."
UConn: Point guard Moriah Jefferson had just five points. She needs just 17 more to become the 40th UConn player to score 1,000 in her career. ... Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis came into the game needing just 11 3-pointers to tie the NCAA career record of 392. She had just one basket, a layup with 18 minutes left in the game.
St. Francis: Jaymee Vaney had five points, and finished just six shy of becoming the seventh player in St. Francis history to score 500 points in a season. ... Benedetti finishes as St. Francis' career leader in made 3-pointers (280) and 3-pointers attempted (797).
St. Francis' season is over.
UConn will play Rutgers in the second round on Monday night. The Scarlet Knights beat Seton Hall 79-66 earlier Saturday.