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Nurse leads UConn to 94-64 rout of Syracuse as streak runs to 109

The Hartford Courant — By Paul Doyle The Hartford Courant

March 20-- STORRS, Conn.-She pumped her first or raised her arms or unleashed a primal scream, bouncing back on defense after a series of long-range jump shots.

Kia Nurse could not miss and she could not hide the joy. As the first half was ending Monday night, the UConn junior guard was grinning after dropping 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.

The best backcourt in the country? The UConn guards were reminded that Syracuse's guards were on record as declaring that about themselves this season.

But in a second round meeting in the NCAA Tournament, it wasn't close. Nurse was the best backcourt player on the Gampel Pavilion floor.

Nurse had 29 points, including 26 in the first half, to propel UConn to the Sweet 16 with 94-64 victory of Syracuse in front of a raucous crowd at Gampel Monday night.

The Huskies (34-0) won their 109th consecutive game and advanced to the regional semifinals for the 24th consecutive season. UConn will play at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., on Saturday.

And UConn is four wins away from its 12th NCAA title and fifth in a row.

Nurse has been part of the past two titles as a starter. As UConn's most seasoned player entering the season, she figured to play a prominent role for a young team.

But as the games get more meaningful, Nurse is emerging a force. She had 24 points and was 6-for-7 on 3-pointers in a win over Albany in the first round.

Against Syracuse and its ballyhooed backcourt, Nurse was unstoppable. As UConn ran to a 57-29 first-half lead, she converted 8-of-10 3-point attempts and displayed unbridled excitement as one shot after another landed in the net.

UConn has productive inside scorers and the Huskies were getting points in the paint (20 in the first half) as Gabby Williams scored 15 points. But the Orange (22-11) were allowing Nurse to roam free on the arc and she was responding with baskets.

Syracuse guard Alexis Peterson had 16 points in the first half and finished with 25. Backcourt mate Brittney Sykes scored 15.

Neither was nearly as good as Nurse. Her ninth three-pointer came in the third quarter and tied an NCAA Tournament record for 3-pointers in a game, matching Purdue's Courtney Moses (2012).

When she connected on No. 9 from the left corner, she smiled and flapped her hands as if they were wings. She seemed almost bewildered by her night.

Nurse was averaging 12.6 points before Monday and was often the team's third scoring option behind Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier and Williams. But after starting the season as an erratic outside shooter, she steadily evolved into a reliable 3-point threat.

Perhaps inspired by the challenge of facing a boastful pair of guards, Nurse became the go-to scorer for UConn. At least while the Huskies ran away in the first half.

As the third quarter ended, she lined up for yet another three-point attempt. Instead of shooting, she tossed the ball into the paint. Collier gathered the pass and converted a layup just before the buzzer.

Geno Auriemma raised both fists to the air as the quarter expired. It was UConn's 30th assist on its 31st basket.

Williams and Samuelson had 23 points each. Williams was 10-for-13 from the floor with six rebounds and five assists, Samuelson 11-for-13 from the free throw line with five rebounds and four assists. Collier added 17 points and seven rebounds.

Nurse also had six assists and Saniya Chong seven.

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