BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Again one step from the Final Four, Kentucky tripped and fell to a familiar foe.
For the second straight year, Connecticut used a huge run to dismantle the Cats 83-53 and advance to the Final Four for the sixth straight time.
"They really, really whipped us in every way imaginable tonight," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of UK's second worst loss of the season. "It was a rough 40 minutes for us and they had a lot to do with that."
Last season, Connecticut's big run came midway through the second half, but this season it came early and often, including a 26-3 spree to end the first half and any hope of a UK comeback at Webster Bank Arena in front of 8,594.
In that span, Kentucky managed just one basket, a banked in three-pointer by little-used reserve Jelleah Sidney, in the final 10 minutes of the first half. UK missed 13 shots in that second part of the second half.
"You don't win a game of this magnitude by this many points without a lot of things going right and most of them were on the defensive end," UConn Coach Geno Auriemma said.
During that big run, the Huskies rolled off 17 straight points, which tied for the most the Cats have allowed consecutively, the last time coming in a loss to Baylor in mid-November. UK turned the ball over 21 times and managed just 19 made baskets.
Connecticut, which managed 10 blocks and outrebounded Kentucky 41-33, scored 24 points off of Cats mistakes and turned them into quick transition points.
"They hit us and we didn't respond," said senior A'dia Mathies, who had a team-best 14 points. "We were a bit too timid and we didn't play as aggressively as we wanted to and we can't let that happen at no point in time, especially in the Elite Eight, trying to get to the Final Four."
Mitchell called it a loss of poise at the worst time.
"They were playing really tough physical defense and really tough physical offense and we just really didn't respond to the challenge," said the coach, who is 0-3 in Elite Eight games.
Breanna Stewart led five Huskies in double figures with 21 points and was named the Bridgeport Regional Most Valuable Player.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 17 points. Kelly Faris chipped in 12 points. Moriah Jefferson and Bria Hartley added 10 points each. Connecticut (33-4) shot 51.8 percent from the field and ran its NCAA Tournament record in its home state to 45-4.
The 83 points scored by Connecticut was the second most for a Cats opponent this season.
Mathies, the two-time Southeastern Conference of the Year, went out with her second foul with 7:28 left in the first half and then went back in and picked up her third with just under five minutes to go. At the half, she had just three points and one made basket.
Jennifer O'Neill added 13 points for the Cats, who shot 30.6 percent from the field.
O'Neill was named to the Bridgeport Regional All-Tournament team.
Kentucky (30-6) walked away from the Bridgeport Regional feeling a familiar emptiness inside despite winning the most games in program history, which included an unprecedented 17-game win streak.
"We didn't really accomplish anything we wanted to," Mathies said. "We didn't win an SEC championship, SEC Tournament championship or get to a Final Four. So winning more games than we've won in a season is great, but we didn't accomplish what we set out to accomplish."
The main thing UK can take away from the loss is that there is more work to be done, Mitchell said.
"This certainly isn't the way we wanted the season to end, but they worked very, very hard to this point and it's disappointing that we weren't able to play any better tonight."
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com