Jan. 25, 2012
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Tiffany Hayes glided to the right corner, snared a pass and her long jumper was gone in the blink of an eye as Connecticut began to exert itself late in the first half against determined Syracuse.
Hayes was bouncing up and down on her toes as the ball swished through the net. She bounced a lot more before the final buzzer, scoring a career-high 35 points as the third-ranked Huskies pulled away in the second half for a convincing 95-54 victory on Wednesday night.
"Once you knock down a couple of shots, you get the feeling like every one of them is going to go in," Hayes said. "When you're open, you keep shooting."
Hayes was 11 of 15 from the floor, 7 of 7 from the free-throw line, matched her career high with six 3-pointers in eight tries, and had seven rebounds.
"She's really in a good place right now - physically, mentally," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Tonight was probably a perfect example of all the things Tiffany can do on any given night. She used to have nights like this when she was a freshman, but since then she's struggled a little bit to find herself, find her game. Tonight was kind of, `Here I am, this is what I do. I'm a senior.'
"I was really, really happy for her. I hope there's a lot more of these before she graduates."
Connecticut (18-2, 7-1 Big East) won its sixth straight overall and beat Syracuse (13-8, 2-5) for the 21st straight time.
The Huskies were coming off an 88-44 win at then-No. 21 DePaul on Saturday night. Connecticut's previous five wins were by an average of 44.5 points and Syracuse, despite a gritty first half, simply became the next team to get steamrolled.
The Huskies shot 12 of 25 from beyond the arc, shot two more free throws than the Orange, and outrebounded them 45-34. Syracuse leads the nation in rebounding and free throws.
If only the Orange could have kept doing what they did in the first half, when Iasia Hemingway dominated the lane, scoring 12 of her 15 points in the game as Syracuse refused to wilt.
Trailing 40-33 at the break, the Orange watched the Huskies start the second half with a 25-5 surge. Syracuse scored just 21 points in the period, shot 24.2 percent (8 of 22), and finished the game 19 of 62 (30.6 percent).
"We came out and knew they were going to make a run and they did," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. "We just didn't answer. We just can't come out in the second half and not score."
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 19 points and eight rebounds and Bria Hartley had 18 points for Connecticut, which had 24 points off Syracuse's 17 turnovers and outscored the Orange 21-6 on the fastbreak.
It was "Pack the House" night at the Carrier Dome with tickets set at $2 apiece, and among the school-record 4,357 fans was local star Breanna Stewart, the top prospect in the nation. The 6-foot-4 senior at Cicero-North Syracuse High School announced last February that she was headed to UConn, and she wanted a firsthand look at her future team.
Syracuse turned some heads at the start, taking an 18-11 lead on Kayla Alexander's layup at 13:55.
Hayes then scored seven points in a 9-0 spurt, her fastbreak layup giving the Huskies a 20-18 lead just over 2 minutes later.
The score was tied three more times, but the Huskies never trailed again.
After Shakeya Leary's pullup jumper in the lane tied it at 24-all, Connecticut ratcheted up the intensity with a press, and the Orange got frazzled. They committed four turnovers, missed two shots and had another blocked as the Huskies held them off the scoreboard for more than 4 minutes.
Hartley's three-point play broke the tie and began a 16-4 run capped by a steal and fastbreak layup by Hayes with 74 seconds left in the period. That gave UConn a 40-30 lead, but the Orange weren't ready to wilt just yet.
Carmen Tyson-Thomas corralled a missed free throw by Leary, passed to Rachel Coffey in the left corner, and she swished a 3 to send Syracuse into the locker room trailing by only seven despite 19 points by Hayes.
Alexander's hook to start the second half moved the Orange within five, but the Huskies responded with a flurry of 3s to take control as they double-teamed Hemingway nearly every time she touched the ball.
Hayes started the decisive spurt by hitting from long range on the right wing. Mosqueda-Lewis, who shot 3 for 10 in the first half including 0 for 4 on 3s, followed with a 3 from the same spot.
After consecutive three-point plays by Hartley and Hayes, Hayes hit another 3, a long, wide-open shot from the top of the key that gave UConn a 61-40 lead with 14:26 left. The lead ballooned to as many as 43.
"Syracuse is a good team, and they're not going to give up," Hayes said. "I knew that in the second half we were going to have to come out with our "A" game or it was not going to be a pretty game."
Junior guard Caroline Doty, who left the DePaul game after playing just 2 minutes because her troublesome left knee swelled, did not play against Syracuse because of a minor bone bruise in the knee.