TAMPA, Fla. -- Breanna Stewart doesn't want any special treatment, though players past and present from around the country much less accomplished have received quite a bit.
If the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's All-American forward and the 2014 national Player of the Year would get the same calls that she seems to get called for, she'd never complain.
And she'd probably be unstoppable, like she was for long stretches in the top-ranked Huskies' 88-65 American Athletic Conference win over South Florida before 5,565 at the Sun Dome Monday night.
"It's different each game," Stewart said. "The refs, you have to see how they'll call the game. Sometimes it's physical and sometimes they call it tight. A lot of teams want to get our posts in foul trouble because they know we don't have six post players. That's why we have to be careful. Maybe there will be bad calls against us, some flops and that kind of thing. We're expecting it.
"I notice it. It's something I expect. When I go through the lane I expect to get hit. And if I were to do it to someone else, they'd call a foul. It's a part of the game, there's nothing you can really say about it. It happens."
Stewart finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and seven blocked shots as the Huskies (29-1 overall, 18-0 AAC) coasted to their 28th straight win. She was 12-for-20 from the floor and hit all five of her free throws. Her blocked shot total matched her career high set a year ago against Central Florida. The North Syracuse, New York, native has established three season highs in points the last five games and is averaging 21.8 points in that span.
She has always had a knack of saving her best for last.
"Each game I want to play better, but March is when you want to play your best," Stewart said. "That's when people play at their best."
In her first two years, UConn compiled a 17-1 postseason record and she became the second person to be named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player as a freshman and sophomore. She was the 2014 AAC Player of the Year and is the favorite to win that award again when it's given out at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday. She was also the AAC tournament MOP a year ago on her way to becoming the sixth UConn sophomore to earn All-America honors.
No one in the college game has a better resume.
"Stewie's the best player in the country and there are a lot of other really good players in the country," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You know how I know? There are 365 Division I coaches. If you put a gun to their head and say, 'You can only have one player in America, who would you take?' Anybody who took anyone other than Stewie should just pull the trigger. Stewie just doesn't go out every night trying to get everybody to say, 'Wow, she's the best player in the country.' She doesn't do that. That's not who she is.
"She likes to play basketball, she loves the game, and loves the big games. The bigger the game, the better she plays. When the time is right, when March comes around, Stewie is at her best. Does that mean she'll deliver all the time? This is a real challenge for Stewie. This is the first time she's been the oldest player on her team. She was always that great player that had older guys around her to carry her along when things didn't go well. This year is the first time she's been that person that everyone looks up to and it's not easy to be in that situation in Connecticut."
Auriemma used the regular season finale to send out his first salvo of the postseason on officiating.
With her performance at the foul line Monday night, Stewart is 87-for-107 on the season. That she averages just 3.6 free throws per game is mind boggling to her coach.
On the season, Stewart has taken 79.9 percent of her shots from inside the arc. Notre Dame All-American junior guard Jewell Loyd has taken 80.6 percent of her shots from 2-point land. Loyd has taken almost twice as many free throws (201) as Stewart.
Among the top 15 in the AAC in free-throw percentage, she is third in most attempts behind USF's Alisia Jenkins (144) and Courtney Williams (108).
"Stewie's taking care of all the things in the lane and midrange stuff," Auriemma said. "She was unbelievable tonight, and they were pretty physical with her. I wish this was men's basketball or some other teams in the country. I wish they treated Stewie with a little more respect. Stewie gets her butt beat every possession. If you watch the game and you watch closely, no one gets beat up more than that kid when she cuts, when she goes into the lane, wherever she goes. And she hardly ever shoots any free throws. There's a different standard for Stewie than there is for anybody else.
"I think it's 'Hey, she's the best player in the country, they're up by 25, hell with it.' If it was someone else, they'd be going to the line. We've played against a lot of kids and they've lived at the free throw line. As a matter of fact, they would shoot two free throws before the game started just on principle."
USF (24-6, 15-3) used a guard in Laura Ferreira and a post player in Jenkins against Stewart.
Ferreira's best defense was clutch and grab Stewart. She finished with three fouls. Jenkins was on the floor so much without contact it would make a Duke player proud. She finished with four fouls.
Against Stanford in the Huskies' loss on Nov. 17, Stewart struggled somewhat with the physicality. Stewart played through USF's effort and was dominant. Of note, she was not whistled for any fouls so give officials Denise Brooks, Bryan Brunette, and Eric Brewton some credit for not falling for flops.
"It's hard to react well like in the Stanford game when you're getting guarded by three guys and the rest of your team is scared to shoot the ball," Auriemma said. "We've got more people helping her now. And she has grown up. She's understanding now that there is a different standard for her. There's a different set of rules for Stewie."
UConn's closest AAC game of the year still had it leading by 23 with 15:28 gone and by 24 at the break. The Bulls pulled within 70-53 with 9:44 left but were then held scoreless for the next 4:08. USF did outscore UConn by one in the second half, the first time that's happened in league play.
The previous closest AAC game that UConn played were a pair of 34-point wins over Temple.
The Huskies begin the 2015 postseason Saturday. They are the No. 1 seed for the AAC tournament and will face the winner of Friday's first-round game between Cincinnati and Central Florida on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Stewart and UConn hope the postseason ends with a return trip to Tampa for the Final Four at Amalie Arena in April and a third straight national championship.
That would be special.