STORRS, Conn. -- The one University of Connecticut women's basketball player that Syracuse should know best is Kia Nurse.
Nurse's aunt, Raquel, played for Syracuse from 1995-98 and is fourth on the Orange's all-time assist list. Nurse's uncle by marriage is legendary Syracuse and former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, who serves today on the school's Board of Trustees.
But Monday night, Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman's defense treated Nurse like she didn't exist, leaving the Huskies' junior guard open from 3-point land and daring her to shoot.
Nurse made Syracuse pay, and pay, and pay, and pay, and pay, and pay, and pay, and pay, and pay. She scored 26 of her 29 points in the decisive first half and matched the NCAA tournament record with nine 3-pointers as top-seeded UConn advanced to its 24th consecutive Sweet 16 by routing the No. 8 Orange 94-64 in a Bridgeport Regional second-round game before a crowd of 8,274 at Gampel Pavilion.
"Challenging her is not a good idea," UConn guard Katie Lou Samuelson said. "Sometimes that happened in the beginning of the year where she would be wide open and she nailed threes and we'd be like, 'Why are you always open?' She stepped up and we need her to step up the way that she did. After hitting her first couple, she did make a couple that were contested and all night she just made great basketball plays."
UConn (34-0), winners of 109 straight games, will play No. 4 UCLA in a regional semifinal game Saturday at Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena. The Bruins eliminated fifth-seeded Texas A&M at Pauley Pavilion on Monday night.
Nurse also had six assists but it was her shooting touch that brought screams from her teammates and the crowd to its feet. She finished 10-for-13 from the floor, adding a layup to her 9-for-12 effort from 3-point land.
"That's my teammate, my best friend, and it's so exciting," UConn forward Gabby Williams said. "It was like, 'Oh my God, another one?' It was one of those games that's fun to watch, fun to be a part of. When Kia's excited, we're getting excited and we're all making plays.
"We weren't sure what was going on but we were surprised at how open she was. But we knew the longer we moved the ball along, the longer that we could make them play defense, the more open she was going to be. You could see it in her eyes, she just had that confidence today."
Nurse's first trey with two minutes gone erased Syracuse's lone lead (3-2) of the game.
"If you look at the strengths we have this year, I still think I'm one of the players people leave open," Nurse said. "Maybe not now. I remember Moriah Jefferson was stuck with that one of her years, and she just said, 'Get in the gym and see it go in the net.' That was the easiest way to do it. So I make a lot of shots in the gym and see the ball go in the net."
Nurse had to stay out of the gym for two weeks as she recovered from a stress reaction in her right ankle that cost her the final four games of the regular season. Even when she returned at the American Athletic Conference tournament it was struggle.
In UConn's NCAA tournament wins over Albany and Syracuse, she is a combined 15-for-19 from behind the arc and she leads the AAC in 3-point percentage at 45.5.
"We know that anyone that challenges her, Kia is going to come back at them 100 times stronger," UConn forward Napheesa Collier said. "Kia is someone who will never back down from a challenge.
"It was like a flashback to USF when Katie Lou was hitting all her threes. Kia was great."
Samuelson, who set a NCAA record with her 10-for-10 effort against South Florida in the AAC final on March 6, was impressed. Nurse tied the NCAA tournament mark of nine 3-pointers first set by Purdue's Courtney Moses against South Dakota State in 2012.
"It was awesome and we just wanted her to keep going," Samuelson said. "It shows that we have a lot of different threats but when someone is hot like she was, that's where we're going with the ball. We were good at finding Kia."
The Huskies were good at finding each other.
They placed four in double figures. Williams added 23 points, six rebounds and five assists while Samuelson had 23 points and Collier 17.
UConn assisted on 30 of its 31 baskets in the first 30 minutes, including a stretch of 26 in a row. On the final play of the third quarter, Nurse passed up a wide open 3 to find Collier for a layup.
"On any given day you're going to find yourself in positions where you're going to take an open shot or you find a teammate for a better shot," Nurse said. "That's just understanding that if you're open shoot it, if not pass it. They came at me really hard on that one and Pheesa was screaming for it so I got it to her."
It's the third consecutive game UConn has had at least 30 assists.
"We need to play our best as a team," Samuelson said. "We might not have the 1-on-1 opportunities the whole game. But when we play well as a team, it makes it tough for our opponents to figure out how to stop it."
Nurse had 11 points in the first quarter as the Huskies used a 19-4 run to lead 28-11. The Hamilton, Ontario, native added five treys in the second quarter as UConn made it 57-29 at the break.
With 2:08 gone in the third quarter, Nurse made her final three on a shot from the left side that was so far off that it went in off the backboard. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
Sometimes when you shoot the ball well people think you played well," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Kia shot the ball better than well, she shot it amazingly well. She played really well and that was more important."
UConn led 86-51 after three quarters as it beat Syracuse for the 25th straight time and improved to 13-4 in rematches from the previous season's national championship game.
Alexis Peterson had 25 points for the Orange (22-11) while Brittney Sykes added 15.
"We just have to get better in every aspect of the game to beat a time like that," Hillsman said.
Monday night's contest was the final home game for seniors Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor. They became the second class in UConn history to go four years without losing a home game with the first being the Class of 2011 of Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon. The seniors are also 150-1 since their arrival here, tying the Moore/Dixon class for second in wins for a class. UConn's Class of 2016 -- Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck -- won 151 games.