CINCINNATI (AP) — Connecticut celebrated its return to No. 1 earlier this week. Now, the Huskies can celebrate another Big East championship.
A combination of UConn’s 83-32 win over Xavier and a loss by DePaul on Saturday allowed the Huskies to clinch a share of the title in their first season back in the conference after seven in the America Athletic Conference. The Big East regular-season title was UConn’s 19th.
“That’s always the first order of business, no matter what league you’re in,” coach Geno Auriemma said. “You want to win the regular-season championship. This hasn’t been a normal season. Not everybody is playing the same number of games. I don’t know how they can give out a championship trophy this year.”
Christyn Williams scored 22 points as the Huskies breezed to their eighth straight win.
“Going into the end of February and early March, we’re obviously playing a little bit differently than earlier,” Auriemma said. “Defensively, we’re better. Offensively, we’re in a better flow. Maintaining that isn’t always the easiest thing to do.”
Williams has scored at least 16 points in each of her last three games after going scoreless against Seton Hall on February 10.
“I’m just in a good space mentally,” the junior guard said. “I just had a bump in the road. There was a lot going on. I had a little bit of an ankle problem, too. The ankle is better. I’m just trying to keep the momentum going forward.”
High-scoring Paige Bueckers and Olivia Nelson-Odoba each added 11 points for the Huskies (18-1, 15-0 Big East).
UConn led 42-13 at halftime and Bueckers didn’t score after the break. She had seven assists.
Aaliyah Edwards logged her first career double-double with 16 points and a career-high 11 rebounds for the Huskies, whose only loss was to then-No. 19 Arkansas 90-87 on Jan. 28.
The win was Connecticut’s second over Xavier (4-7, 1-6) this season — this was the Huskies’ first-ever visit to Xavier.
Connecticut, which returned to the top ranking earlier this week, cruised past the Musketeers 106-59 on Dec. 19.
Carrie Gross scored 10 points to lead Xavier, which set a season low in scoring.
As Auriemma watched with his arms folded across his chest most of the time, the Huskies never trailed. The game was tied at 2 for little over a minute in the first quarter before UConn ran off 12 straight points.
Connecticut’s active man-to-man defense forced Xavier into a season-high 18 turnovers, and the Huskies enjoyed huge advantages of 29-2 in points off turnovers and 28-9 in fast-break points.
Xavier was playing its first home game since Jan. 3. Five games had been postponed.
The game was the third of five straight on the road for Connecticut. The last time the Huskies played five straight road games was in February 1980.
Xavier: Senior forward A’riana Gray was attended to by trainers and led off the floor after suffering a head injury in a collision with a teammate with 7:26 left in the third quarter. She returned with 1:04 left in the quarter.
Connecticut: The Huskies’ road trip is scheduled to continue on Thursday at Creighton.
Xavier: The Musketeers are scheduled to play at Butler on Monday.
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