STORRS, Conn. -- The toughest part for Kia Nurse during her four-game absence from the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's lineup last month was staying off her injured right ankle to give it a chance to heal.
But the 12-day break between the American Athletic Conference tournament final and the start of the NCAA tournament allowed the Huskies' junior guard to get back in the routine she's accustomed to.
Her work paid off Saturday.
Nurse had 24 points, going 6-for-7 from 3-point land, as the top-seeded Huskies routed No. 16 Albany 116-55 in a NCAA Bridgeport Regional first-round game before a crowd of 5,670 at Gampel Pavilion.
"It might have been that I was trying to make up for a little missed time," Nurse said. "The excitement I had when I even got to go back to halfcourt drills or shooting drills was incredible. Now it's just understanding that I have to get into the gym a couple extra times to get up some shots."
UConn (33-0) will take its 108-game winning streak into Monday night's second round where it will face No. 8 Syracuse in a rematch of the 2016 national championship game. The Orange (22-10) rolled past ninth-seeded Iowa State 85-65 in the second game of Saturday'sdoubleheader is.
Nurse missed the final four games of the regular season with a stress reaction in her right ankle. She returned in time for the AAC tournament and averaged 6.7 points on 34.8 percent shooting in 19.3 minutes per game.
But the Hamilton, Ontario native was on top of her game Saturday. It was her highest scoring output since she netted her career high of 33 points against DePaul on Dec. 1.
"If there was another option, I would've been playing," Nurse said when asked about her break. "Obviously it has done me a lot of good. My ankle has felt a lot better. I've been able to get back in the gym and get my timing back and that has helped a lot."
Napheesa Collier (24 points, 10 rebounds) and Gabby Williams (20 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals) recorded double-doubles for the Huskies, who have won 37 consecutive postseason games since a loss to Notre Dame in the 2013 Big East tournament final. Freshman Crystal Dangerfield came off the bench for 16 points and six assists. Katie Lou Samuelson, coming off her 40-point performance in the AAC final against South Florida, had just 15 points but dished out a career-high nine assists with no turnovers.
Having Nurse play at a high level picked up everyone else.
"She's our floor general and we depend on her to make sure our offense is flowing," Williams said. "When things aren't going right, she's the one that slows us down and makes sure we know what we're doing."
Albany was making its sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance by winning the America East tournament title and receiving the league's automatic bid. Two years ago, the Great Danes lost at No. 4 seed Duke after leading in the final minute and last year upset fifth-seeded Florida at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
UConn, though, isn't Duke or Florida. The Huskies never trailed but weren't particularly sharp early.
"We try to have the same approach for every game and today we didn't quite accomplish that," Williams said. "We never look at a team based on its seed, or whatever. We go out there and play the best that we know we can play."
Collier, Nurse and Williams combined for 32 points as the Huskies led 37-18 after the first quarter. It was 58-32 at halftime.
A 9-0 run in the opening 1:09 of the third quarter set a tone for the second half and the rout was on.
"Once we got better on defense that sparked our offense and we got out in transition which is what we want to do," Collier said.
The Huskies were 13-for-15 from the floor in the fourth quarter as their point total matched their own NCAA tournament record for a first-round game originally set against Hampton in 2000.
"They were doing what any team would do," Albany guard Imani Tate said. "They played hard for 40 minutes. They didn't give up."
Tate led the Great Danes with 19 points but was just 6-for-24 from the floor and had seven turnovers. Jessica Fequiere added 16 points.
UConn had 34 assists attached to its 43 baskets as Samuelson and Dangerfield each recorded their 100th assist of the season, giving the Huskies five players at that plateau.
"I've said this about Connecticut for years. What separates them from other teams isn't just how hard they play, but how well they pass and catch," Albany coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. "They move and they all have good basketball IQs, no matter who they put in."
The Great Danes finish 21-12.
Syracuse advanced as Brittney Sykes (28), Alexis Peterson (25) and Gabby Cooper (24) combined for 77 points in the win over Iowa State. Cooper, a freshman, was 8-for-15 on 3-pointers while the Orange were 15-for-29 from behind the arc.
Cooper hit two treys sandwiched around one by Isabella Slim to make it 9-0 Syracuse with 1:27 gone. It was an 11-point lead when Sykes scored 11 points in a 16-2 run to make it 33-8 after one quarter. Iowa State (18-13) got no closer than 17 the rest of the way. Seanna Johnson had 21 points for the Cyclones.
"Syracuse relies a lot on their perimeter game, I think they average 30 3-pointers per game," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "If they make 15 or 18 of them, that's a bad day for everyone else. If it's one of those days that they make five, it's a bad day for them. Because they take so many of them, they're really good at getting them and you can't keep them from getting them. Our defense has to be way better Monday night than it was in the first half today."
UConn owns a 38-12 lead in the series with Syracuse and has won 24 straight against its former Big East rival. In last year's national championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Breanna Stewart had 24 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists as the Huskies rolled to an 82-51 victory over the Orange.