Top-seed UConn routs Robert Morris 101-49 in first round

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STORRS, Conn. (AP) Top-ranked UConn made an early statement about its focus in the quest for a fourth consecutive national title.

Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson scored 22 points, two-time national player of the year Breanna Stewart added 18 and UConn routed Robert Morris 101-49 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies led by 37 points after the first quarter and were never challenged.

“When it comes to NCAA Tournament time, you don’t have to get anyone up for a game,” Stewart said. “Everyone is ready to play and we came out looking like we came ready to play.”

Anna Niki Stamolamprou had 11 for Robert Morris (20-13) in the final game for coach Sal Buscaglia, who is retiring after a 38-year career.

The Huskies, who are seeking an 11th championship, have won 70 consecutive games, which matches the second-longest winning streak in team and NCAA history.

They led by 49 points at halftime and 61 after three quarters.

The win sends the Huskies to the second round for the 23rd straight season, where they face Duquesne.

Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse each scored 14 points while combining for 11 assists. Morgan Tuck added 13 points and eight rebounds.

Stewart also had eight steals and three blocked shots, giving her 398 blocks for her career. Her rejection of a layup by Leah Wormack at the end of the first quarter moved her past Rebecca Lobo and into first place on the school’s all-time list.

UConn put the game away in that quarter, led by 10 points each from Stewart and Samuelson.

Nurse hit a 3-pointer from the right baseline 19 seconds into the game and the Huskies never trailed. UConn pressured Robert Morris early and forced 13 first-quarter turnovers. The Huskies used a 22-0 run to lead 41-4 after 10 minutes.

UConn took its first 50-point lead at 60-9 on a pair of free throws from Natalie Butler and led 64-15 at halftime.

“We all got off to a good start and a good run and I think our energy was really high,” Samuelson said. “So, it made it a lot easier for us to go on a run.”

Robert Morris, which averages about 16 giveaways a game, turned the ball over 29 times, and the Huskies scored 50 points off those.

The margin of victory wasn’t the largest in UConn’s tournament history. The Huskies beat LIU 101-29 in the first round of the 2001 tournament.

Buscaglia announced last year that this would be his final season after coaching stints at Hilbert College, Buffalo and Manhattan. He finishes his career 711-369 and 224-178 at Robert Morris. His first game as a head coach was a 105-17 loss, and he joked that he was worried about coming full circle.

“After 38 years of doing this and knowing I’m not going to be doing it, it’s hard,” he said through tears after the game. “I’m not Peyton Manning. I’m not those people, but it’s still the same feeling.”

He also expressed pride in his team, noting they were taking running plays and taking charges until the final buzzer.

UConn, which has won 116 of its last 117 games, also won 70 straight games between November 2001 and November 2003. They need 20 more to match their own NCAA record of 90 games set between November 2008 and December 2010.

The Huskies, who have qualified for the NCAA Tournament every year since 1989, are now 104-17 in the tournament and 24-2 in the first round. The Huskies have been to eight straight Final Fours and 10 straight regional finals.

“This team is pretty locked in,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “They are pretty focused on what we are trying to do, what the task ahead of us is.”

NIL and NCAA: What to know about the new policy and how NBC Sports can help

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As of July 1, 2021, a new NCAA policy has been in effect allowing student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image, and likeness (often referred to as NIL). As long as the activities are “consistent with the law of the state where the school is located,” athletes now have the opportunity to accept endorsements from brands, monetize their social media presences, and work with professional firms to coordinate deals.

Click here for additional information and guidelines regarding NCAA NIL policies and keep reading to find answers to questions such as how NIL works as well as how NBC Sports can help.

What is NIL and NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct is coming to a school near you. The program enables college student-athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through a unique marketplace that connects athletes with advertisers. NBC Sports Athlete Direct will work to provide equal opportunities to all student-athletes, regardless of which team you play on or any statistical performance.

How will the NIL Marketplace work?

Advertisers will use NBC Sports Athlete Direct to make NIL offers available to college student-athletes. College student-athletes will then have the option to participate in the NIL offer. Those who decide to participate and complete the advertiser’s campaign requirements will be compensated based on a predetermined rate.

How much money can athletes make participating in NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Compensation will vary by advertiser campaign.

When will NBC Sports Athlete Direct launch and how can I sign up?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct will officially launch in the Fall of 2022 but prior to that, we will be launching a pilot program soon, exclusively for Temple and Vanderbilt student-athletes.

In the meantime, click here to fill out a student-athlete interest form and once it is available at your school, we will notify you and provide you with additional information on how to sign up.

If I participate in NIL offers from NBC Sports Athlete Direct, do I still have the freedom to do other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Yes, this program is non-exclusive so our student-athletes will have the freedom to participate in other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct.

What are the rules or restrictions for participating in this program?

Unfortunately, international students and students under the age of 18 are not eligible to participate in the pilot program at this time.

Kentucky to allow college athletes to earn off likeness

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Thursday allowing the state’s college athletes – including players on the nationally renowned Kentucky and Louisville men’s basketball teams – to make money through the use of their name, image or likeness.

The Democratic governor said he took the action as a matter of fairness for college athletes. It will spare Kentucky’s colleges from being at a competitive disadvantage with rivals in other states that will have laws enabling athletes to profit off their name, image or likeness, he said.

“This is important to our student-athletes, who for decades, others – whether it’s companies or institutions – have profited on,” Beshear told reporters. “These athletes deserve to be a part of that.”

Beshear said his executive order takes effect July 1, when similar legislation passed in several other states will become law. His office said he was the first governor to make the change by executive order.

The governor’s action won praise from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. UK plays in the Southeastern Conference and UofL competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Bringing the state of Kentucky into competitive balance with other states across the country and, more specifically, the Atlantic Coast Conference is critical,” Vince Tyra, U of L’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics, said in a release issued by the governor’s office.

UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said the governor’s action “provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around name, image and likeness.”

“We are appreciative of that support, as it is a bridge until such time as state and/or federal laws are enacted,” Barnhart said in the same release from Beshear’s office. “The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago.”

In Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, laws go into effect July 1 that make it impermissible for the NCAA and members schools to prevent athletes from being paid by third parties for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsements and personal appearances.

The NCAA had hoped for a national law from Congress that has not come, and its own rule-making has been bogged down for months. College sports leaders are instead moving toward the type of patchwork regulation they have been warning against for months.