UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott jumped for joy when Kayla Cook banked in a 3-point shot late against UConn on Saturday.
The basket was the 150th 3-pointer of senior guard’s career, and took just a bit of the sting out of a 72-42 loss to the top-ranked Huskies in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
“If you start thinking about things to get excited about, that’s definitely something to get excited about,” Elliott said. “For your senior to go out with 150 threes, against the No. 1 team in the country, and it was a bank shot.”
Cook finished with nine points, all on 3-pointers. Fellow senior Jeanise Randolph had 14 points and seven rebounds as the Bearcats finished the season at 13-18.
American Athletic Conference player of the year Breanna Stewart scored 22 points to lead UConn (32-0). Bria Hartley added 17 points for the Huskies, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 12 and Stefanie Dolson had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Connecticut extended the school’s third longest winning streak to 38 games. The Huskies, who won their regular-season conference games by an average of 37 points, will play No. 24 Rutgers in the semifinals. The Scarlet Knights beat SMU 68-49 earlier Saturday.
UConn never trailed, but Cincinnati stayed with the Huskies for much of the first half. The Bearcats cut the deficit to 17-13 on a layup by Randolph.
The senior forward said she wanted to end her career playing hard, passionate and aggressive basketball.
“I think if I play like that, (my teammates) are going to play like that next year, and it’s going to carry over and we’re going to see more success in the program,” she said.
The Huskies responded with a 20-4 run that gave them a comfortable 37-17 halftime lead.
Stewart had 13 of her points by intermission.
The Huskies opened the second half with a 13-3 run, and cruised from there.
“”If we could have a run the whole 40 minutes of the game, we’d take that,” Stewart. “But we’re shortening the game to four minutes at a time, and just making sure that if they go on their run, that’s fine and well, but we’re going to go on ours.”
Connecticut, which has won at least 30 games for the ninth straight year, went undefeated in the regular season for the seventh time.
The Huskies will again be heavily favored on Sunday. They beat Rutgers by 30 points on the road and by 37 in Storrs last week.
The Bearcats defense had been holding opponents to more than 13 points below their season averages, and conference foes to just 59 points a game.
But the Huskies won the regular-season meetings by a combined 90 points, beating the Bearcats 67-34 at home in December and 86-29 at Cincinnati last month.
Cincinnati shot just 32 percent on Saturday, turned the ball over 23 times and had six shots blocked.
The Bearcats fall to 3-8 since losing leading scorer Dayeesha Hollins for the season with a knee injury in late January.
“We’re continuing to get better, build culture, understand how hard you’ve got to work in practice every day,” said Elliott, who starred on UConn’s first national championship team. “(We’re) embracing how hard it has to be to play the No. 1 team in the country one night, the No. 3 team in the country the next night and understanding what needs to be done to compete against those guys.”