UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- The all-tournament team had been announced and all that was left was the Most Outstanding Player of the American Athletic Conference women's basketball tournament to be named.
Azura Stevens stood in back of her University of Connecticut teammates as the public address announcer rattled off statistics including that the MOP had scored 21 points in the semifinals.
With that, Stevens smiled.
"When they said that, I thought, 'Hey, that's me. I'm the only one who scored 21 points,' " Stevens said with a laugh.
Stevens and the top-seeded Huskies finished off their run to a fifth consecutive AAC tournament title and clinched the program's 30th straight NCAA tournament bid Tuesday by defeating No. 2 South Florida 70-54 before a crowd of 7,501 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
UConn (32-0) gets the AAC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and will learn its road to the Final Four on Monday. If they are the overall No. 1 seed as expected, the Huskies would be the top seed in the Albany (New York) Regional and host first- and second-round games at Gampel Pavilion.
The run of 30 in a row is the third-longest in history. Tennessee is expected to get an at-large bid to its 37th consecutive tournament appearance while Stanford is expected to receive an at-large bid to its 31st straight.
"That's a lot. That's a lot," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I remember the days when we were trying to get one. I reminded Dee Kantner of that. She was the referee (in UConn's 1991 second-round game against Toledo) when we won our first NCAA game and went to our first regional.
"It's been amazing to be honest with you. You don't think of it. Somebody must have done it in the past. It's not like we're the first ones to do it. There have been other people that have been bad for women's basketball before us."
Gabby Williams, who missed the semifinal game against Cincinnati Monday with a hip injury, returned Tuesday and had 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists, five steals, and a block in 32 minutes. Also in double figures were Stevens (13), Katie Lou Samuelson (12), and Napheesa Collier (12). Williams, though she played just 16 minutes in the first two days with the hip issue, joined Stevens on the all-tournament along with Samuelson and point guard Crystal Dangerfield. USF's Kitija Laksa and Maria Jespersen rounded out the squad.
In wins over Tulane, Cincinnati, and USF, Stevens averaged 16.3 points on 63.9 percent shooting, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocked shots.
"It's special," Stevens said. "It adds a little more to this team and how I feel about them. They have been so helpful since the first day I got here. I wouldn't be able to do this and get this award without them. I'm thankful to have them on my side. They have helped me through a lot."
As is tradition at UConn, the Huskies -- led by Williams -- messed up the 6-foot-6 Stevens' hair when she came back to the bench with the MOP trophy.
"It was a struggle, but I got it," Williams said with a smile.
Williams gave UConn a boost with her performance. There was a scare in the third quarter when USF's Tamara Henshaw came underneath the senior forward on a jump shot and Williams appeared to hurt her wrist. She did return to action.
Williams had a streak of 142 straight games played snapped Monday, the eighth-longest run in UConn history.
"If I was going to make the decision to play, I was going to go out there and compete no matter what was going on," Williams said. "I can't be halfway or timid about it."
The Sparks, Nevada, native finished 9-for-11 from the floor and moved within 26 rebounds of 1,000 for her career.
"I knew she was tough and she went out there and proved it once again," Dangerfield said. "She's our leader, our emotional leader, and she was great tonight."
UConn improved to 26-0 against the Bulls and beat them in the league final for the fourth consecutive year.
The Huskies never trailed Tuesday but unlike the two regular season meetings, USF hung tough.
"They fought the whole time, and that's the best thing they showed us," Samuelson said. "They made some tough shots, too. It's not like we made it easy for them. They earned every point they got. But we expect that to happen each game and that's why we don't take anyone lightly."
The Huskies' lead was 23-20 before they went on a 14-3 run to end the first half. The Bulls had possession down 11 with a chance to run out most of the time left in the second quarter, but rushed a shot and UConn came down the floor with Samuelson hitting a 3 at the buzzer for a 37-23 advantage at the break.
USF (26-7) got the first two baskets of the third quarter but the Huskies responded with a 15-3 run -- five points by Dangerfield, four each by Williams and Stevens -- to push the lead to 22. It was 55-32 going to the fourth quarter and USF got no closer than 14. Laksa scored 21 of her 26 points in the second half for the Bulls. Four USF players -- Laksa, Jespersen, Laia Flores, and Laura Ferreira -- played 40 minutes for the second straight day.
The Bulls are expected to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, with coach Jose Fernandez, the AAC Coach of the Year, lobbying for a top-16 overall seed.
"There is a reason why they are undefeated and who they are, but I think we showed everybody in the country how good we are as well and how good we are playing right now," Fernandez said. "If that doesn't show that we deserve to be one of the hosts and one of the top four seeds and continue to play basketball in the first two rounds in Tampa ... I think we have done our part, we scheduled in the non-conference, and I think we are playing our best basketball right now."
Auriemma said he'll give his team three days off and return to practice Saturday. That will give the hobbling Huskies -- Williams, Samuelson (left ankle), and Dangerfield (shin splints, left leg) -- a break they need.
Stevens may not want a break the way she's playing but she certainly deserves one, too.
"The things that Z did today change the game," Auriemma said. "She just has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and now that's starting to happen on the defensive end as well. Before it would only happen on the offensive end. There were a couple of blocks she had ... She's being more active.
"She's fun to coach, I've got to tell you that, and even more fun to be around. It's aggravating at times because there is so much there. I wish we had her for three more years. She probably doesn't think so but I do."