Connecticut 82, UMBC 33

Sunday, March 18th 2007, 10:26 pm

By: News On 6

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut quickly shook off the rust of a long layoff and once again cruised into the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Renee Montgomery scored 19 points and Charde Houston added 15 to help top-seeded UConn rout UMBC 82-33 on Sunday night in the Fresno Regional.

The Huskies (30-3), who hadn't played since losing the Big East championship game to Rutgers on March 6, were ahead just 6-5 three minutes into the game, before Houston led them on a 10-3 run.

The Retrievers (16-17) had no answers for Connecticut's inside game. Houston had 15 first-half points and hit seven of her first nine shots.

When UMBC decided to collapse on her, she kicked the ball outside to Montgomery, or to Tina Charles and Kalana Greene on other side of the post. Greene finished with 12, and Charles had 10. The easy looks resulted in the Huskies shooting 60 percent from the floor.

UMBC managed to stay close at 29-20, but UConn ended the half with a 12-0 run and scored the first nine points of the second half. They coasted from there to the program's 14th consecutive first-round win.

The Retrievers tried to stay in the game by shooting 3-pointers, but hit just three of their first 17, and 5-of-24 for the game. They shot just 25 percent from the field.

Sharri Rohde, UMBC's leading scorer, picked up her third foul 2:22 before intermission. She finished with just seven points. Brittnie Hughes had nine.

UConn will play Wisconsin-Green Bay in the second round on Tuesday. The Phoenix beat New Mexico 59-52 on Sunday, and are riding a 26-game winning streak, the second longest in the nation.

The Retrievers had a less impressive resume. They were the seventh seed in the America East Conference tournament, and had to beat the top three seeds in that conference, including a University of Hartford team coached by former UConn star Jen Rizzotti. This was their first trip to an NCAA tournament since becoming a Division I program in 1986.

The trip to Hartford seemed almost as long, a 15-hour bus ride in a snowstorm Friday, including five hours at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike after their bus broke down.

Connecticut averaged 14,215 fans at the seven regular-season home games played at the Civic Center. Just 6,824 showed up for Sunday's 9:30 p.m. start.

Connecticut went undefeated in the Big East to win the regular-season title, and had won 15 consecutive games before the 55-47 loss to Rutgers in the conference tournament.

UConn has won five national championships and is making its 19th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. But there are no seniors on the team and the Huskies' four juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen have never been to a Final Four. UConn won the last of its five national titles in 2004.

UConn is now 32-4 in NCAA tournament games played in Connecticut and 59-13 all-time in NCAA tournament play.

The Huskies have not lost a first-round game since 1993, when they were beaten by Louisville, 74-41. First-round teams were not seeded back then, but UConn would have been a No. 6 seed under the current system.

If the Huskies win two more games this season, they could face a regional final matchup with second-seeded Stanford, which would have about a three-hour drive to Fresno.

UMBC's went 3-7 in its final 10 games of the regular season before making its conference tournament run.

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