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Napheesa Collier scores 28, UConn easily advances to Final Four

Connecticut's Napheesa Collier, right, shoots as Oregon's Ruthy

Connecticut's Napheesa Collier, right, shoots as Oregon's Ruthy Hebard, left, defends, during the first half of a regional final game in the NCAA women's basketball tournament on Monday, March 27, 2017, in Bridgeport, Conn. Credit: AP / Jessica Hill

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Like a finely tuned luxury sports car with the power of an SUV, Connecticut’s historic journey continued its smooth, pothole-free ride.

The Huskies have motored across the women’s basketball landscape like a superhero’s vehicle with all the options, displaying such outstanding fuel efficiency that they don’t bother with exit ramps. They have traveled so far that their consecutive victory streak has reached numbers that match some of the routes they’ve bypassed.

They zoomed past 110 in Saturday’s regional semifinal, left 111 in the rearview mirror in Monday night’s regional final and now have their GPS set for 112 against Mississippi State in the Final Four on Friday in Dallas.

It’s a trip with no final destination in sight. Connecticut not only has taken the road less traveled, it has taken a path that has never been traveled.

The latest masterpiece was a 90-52 Elite Eight victory over Oregon in the Bridgeport Region final before a sellout crowd of 8,830 at Webster Bank Arena, a de facto home court for the Huskies’ strong Nutmeg State following.

“First of all, we have really, really good players, and everybody who watched the game saw that,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in an-court interview immediately after the Huskies (36-0), who have won the last four NCAA titles, earned their 10th consecutive trip to the Final Four.

Monday night’s victory was Auriemma’s record 113th in NCAA Tournament play, breaking the record he shared with Tennessee legend Pat Summitt.

Napheesa Collier had 28 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Gabby Williams added 25 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals. Kia Nurse had 11 points and seven assists and Saniya Chong added 11 points, four assists and three steals. Fan favorite Katie Lou Samuelson had eight points, four assists and five steals. And each of her four baskets was punctuated by “Looooooo!” chants from the fans.

“I thought they were really, really great tonight,’’ Auriemma said. “They’re so laid-back as a group, a happy-go-lucky bunch. They don’t let things bother them and they stay positive.”

Connecticut shot 54.5 percent from the field with 21 assists. The Huskies’ version of Grand Theft Auto also featured 16 steals, 12 in the first half, when they took a 49-24 lead and hadn’t even hit their stride.

Said Williams, “We were lucky enough to come out to a good start. The key was not letting them back in. We didn’t want to give them any hope. We always want to throw the first punch.”

The Ducks (23-14) were never in it. “We did a really good job defensively of keeping them out of the lane and off the three-point line,” Collier said.

The UCLA men’s basketball team had an 88-game winning streak that ended in 1974 and once was the sport’s landmark record. The Bruins’ feat now is a mere footnote, relegated to museum-piece status. What the Connecticut women’s team is doing is a living, breathing piece of history that keeps adding chapters with every passing mile.

New York Sports