LINCOLN, Neb. — UConn faced its first test of the NCAA tournament and responded with another double-digit win.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 19 points to lead four Connecticut players in double figures, and the defending national champion Huskies shook off BYU early in the second half to win 70-51 in the NCAA women’s regional semifinals Saturday.
The Huskies (37-0), winners of 43 straight, need a win over Texas A&M or DePaul on Monday night to reach the Final Four for the seventh straight year.
UConn season scoring leaders Breanna Stewart and Bria Hartley overcame slow starts, with Stewart having 12 of her 16 in the second half and Hartley all 12 of hers after halftime. She keyed Connecticut’s run that broke the game open.
Moriah Jefferson added 11 for UConn.
Kim Beeston led the Cougars (28-7) with 16 points, and Morgan Bailey added 14. Jennifer Hamson had nine points to go with 13 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Mosqueda-Lewis and Stefanie Dolson each grabbed 13 rebounds.
The Cougars, who came to Lincoln off wins in 12 of 13 games, joined 2013 Kansas and 1996 San Francisco as the only No. 12 seeds to make it to the regional semifinals. They were trying to become the lowest seed to reach the Elite Eight since a No. 11 Gonzaga did it in 2011.
Until early in the second half it looked like they had a chance to do it — against the dominant program of this era, no less.
UConn won the only previous meetings of the programs, in 2007 and 2008, by 46 and 49 points.
BYU showed no sign of being intimidated against the Huskies’ cast of stars. The proof? UConn was down 35-34 with 17:34 left — the latest it has trailed this season — after Lexi Eaton hit three straight baskets to open the second half.
Hartley’s 3-pointer, the first after nine straight misses from distance by UConn, started a 13-2 run that put the Huskies in control. Mosqueda-Lewis made a 3-pointer, then stole the ball on the other end and threw a baseball pass that Hartley laid in.
The Huskies kept their transition game going when Jefferson delivered a long pass to Hartley for another layup that stretched it to 47-37.
Beeston scored 13 points with three high-arcing 3-pointers in the first half as the Cougars put the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd on upset alert, and she hit a fourth midway through the second half to make it a six-point game.
That’s as close as the Cougars would come to doing the unthinkable.
UConn trailed for the first time in the tournament, 3-2, when Bailey made the first of her three 3-pointers just over a minute after tipoff. The Cougars led by as many as six, 27-21, on a Beeston jumper before UConn came back late in the half.
Mosqueda-Lewis scored five straight points and Stewart made her first basket to put the Huskies up by a point, but Kylie Maeda’s jumper in the lane made it 29-28 BYU with 35 seconds left.
Kiah Stokes’ go-ahead basket on the other end kept UConn from trailing at half for the first time since its loss to Notre Dame 44 games ago.