HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)UConn is no longer ranked among the top five teams in the nation, but they are still the dominant force in the American Athletic Conference.
Anna Makurat and Megan Walker each scored 18 points and now sixth-ranked Connecticut secured a share of its seventh straight American Athletic Conference regular-season title Wednesday night with a 74-31 rout of Tulane.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa recorded her sixth double-double of the season, her first since December, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the Huskies (22-3, 12-0 American).
UConn, which this week fell from top five in the ranking for the first time since February, 2007, has won all of its 114 regular-season conference games since the formation of the AAC and all six conference tournaments.
The Huskies are headed back to the Big East next season and coach Geno Auriemma said leaving undefeated in this league is a big goal this year.
“If you do that, then you’re going to win a conference championship,” he said. “When we win it outright, then we’ll say, ‘Yay.’”
Krystal Freeman and Irina Parau each scored seven points to lead Tulane (12-14, 7-6), which has lost five in a row.
The Green Wave started strong, hitting their first three shots from behind the arc and taking an early 9-7 lead.
The Huskies made just eight of their 19 shots in the first 10 minutes, but led 19-13 after a quarter.
The Huskies went on a 16-0 run in the second period to control of the game. Walker (14 points) and Makurat (11) were both in double digits by halftime and UConn went into intermission up 44-21.
The Huskies took their first 30-point lead at 51-21 when Makurat stole an errant pass from Sierra Cheatham was fouled while making a layup on the breakaway and hit the free throw.
They led 59-26 after the third quarter.
UConn held Tulane to 20% shooting, including just four baskets on 35 shots (11%) in the second half.
“Our goal today was to hold them each quarter to 13 or under,” Nelson-Ododa said. “We were really able to keep them under what we wanted to.”
The Huskies also dominated the inside game, outscoring Tulane 36-10 in the paint.
Tulane: The Green Wave ran off six straight AAC wins to start conference play, but have now lost six of their last seven.
“You can’t define yourself by a game like this,” coach Lisa Stockton said. “I think for us, all of our games have been very close. We’ve been in every game, we’ve had an opportunity to win every game. I think that’s where we have to focus and we just have to regroup. Next game is the biggest game of the year.”
UConn: The Huskies have won either a conference regular season or tournament title in all but one season since 1993. In 2013, Notre Dame won both Big East trophies, but the Huskies ended up winning the national championship.
FILLING THE STAT SHEET
Makurat also had five rebounds, five assists and six steals for UConn,
“I always try to be an all-around player, just do a little bit of everything,” she said.
But the freshman also turned the ball over six times, which caught the attention of her coach.
“That’s the kind of kid she is,” Auriemma joked. “Some of our guys were open, she threw it to them. Some of their guys were open, she threw it to them. I think she had a great all around game for both teams. She was terrific.”
OTHER KEY STATS
UConn scored 31 points off 24 Tulane turnovers. The Huskies also had 17 assists on their 31 field goals.
This was the last scheduled meeting between the Huskies and the Green Wave. UConn improved to 12-0 in the series, which included a 3-point win in 2017, the closest they’ve come to losing to any AAC team.
“I think we’ve really been able to build a great conference in the American,,” Stockton said. “There’s a lot of great programs in there, but UConn has certainly given us the national exposure and it’s helped us all build our individual programs underneath them. I think we’ll always be grateful for everything they’ve done for the league.”
Tulane: The Green Wave, who began a three-game road trip in Hartford, will be in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon.
UConn: The Huskies host UCF on Saturday.