Huskies Ground Mountaineers in Road Test
Jan. 6, 2009
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Barely tested by opponents during another blazing start, top-ranked Connecticut thrives on motivation from within.
Improved defense was the Huskies' mantra Tuesday night in an 83-37 rout of South Florida, the nation's highest scoring team.
"I think we weren't satisfied with how we were playing defense, and we definitely took it as a challenge," leading scorer Maya Moore said. "And no better team to do it against than a high-scoring South Florida team."
Moore scored 24 points, Tina Charles had 17 points and 12 rebounds and both played key roles in holding USF to 24.6 percent shooting as UConn (14-0, 1-0) won its Big East opener for the 17th straight season.
"I thought our defensive pressure was great," Moore said. "I give our guards a lot of credit just for being physical out there, fighting around the screens, chasing, doing whatever they needed to do to contest. And just being smart about not letting them get off a lot of threes."
Actually, USF (13-3, 0-2) attempted 21 3-pointers, but only made two. The Bulls trailed 45-26 at the half, then scored 11 points the rest of the way.
"There's not much to say. You saw the No. 1 team in the country play at their best," USF coach Jose Fernandez said.
"They took us out of a lot of things. ... Hand it to them. They were not going to come in, especially opening Big East play, and not be prepared."
UConn has opened the season with at least 14 straight wins for the second straight year and the eighth time since 1994-95. The Huskies are 22-5 all-time in conference openers and have won 100 consecutive games against non-ranked opponents since a loss at Arizona State in December 2004.
Coach Geno Auriemma stressed it's just a start. At UConn, it's always about how the Huskies finish.
"We went to the Final Four last year for the ninth time, and it didn't even register on the radar in Connecticut because we didn't win it," the coach said. "It's just the way it is."
USF (13-3, 0-2) entered the game as the nation's highest scoring team (89.9 per game, just ahead of UConn's 88.8). The Bulls missed 20 of their first 27 shots and turned the ball over 13 times in the opening half.
Moore had 20 points, six rebounds and three assists at the break, and the Huskies held USF's leading scorer, Shantia Grace, without a field goal for the first 16 minutes of the game. Grace finished with eight points on 2-for-12 shooting, and backcourt mate Jazmine Sepulveda was 0-for-8.
"We went in thinking, here's a team that's making nine threes a game. That was a number that we were very concerned about, and we were going to make sure that that was a focal point of our defense, not to allow any uncontested or open threes," Auriemma said. "I thought we did a great job with that."
The victory extended UConn's regular-season winning streak to 22 games and ended USF's school-record 12-game home winning streak before a crowd of 4,290, up from the 737 the Bulls averaged for their first 10 games at the Sun Dome.
Moore scored 15 of the Huskies' first 21 points and finished 10 of 19 from the field. Charles had her 29th career double-double and Kalana Greene added 13 for UConn. Renee Montgomery had 9 points, as no UConn starter played no more than 26 minutes.
UConn led 26-16 before using a 9-2 spurt to pull away for good. As poorly as USF shot in the opening half (10-of-35, 28.6 percent), the Bulls struggled even more after halftime (5-for-26, 19.2 percent).
The Huskies scored the first nine points of the second half, building the lead to 54-26 with 15:39 to go. The closest South Florida got after that was 24 points.
Porche Grant led USF with 10 points. Brittany Denson had six points and 12 rebounds, while the Bulls' leading scorer off the bench, Janae Stokes, missed all six of her 3-point attempts and finished 1-for-9 with four points.
USF is 0-7 all-time against UConn.
"I'm really disappointed when you look at the score. Especially losing like that at home," Fernandez said. "Even on the road (against UConn) it's never been like that. It's a huge concern for that score to look the way it does."