March 21, 2010
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Up comfortably at the half, it would have been easy for Connecticut to coast to another victory. Instead, Geno Auriemma's team opened the second half with one of its most impressive runs during the remarkable 73-game win streak.
Leading by 23 at the break, top-seeded UConn scored 21 of the first 23 points of the second half to bury Southern in a 95-39 victory in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament Sunday.
"That first five minutes was about as good as I've seen us play at any time all season," Auriemma said. "That's the kind of basketball we like to see."
And it only got better.
The Huskies matched their best defensive half in a NCAA tournament game by holding Southern (23-9) to 10 points on 4 for 30 shooting (13.3 percent) in the second half. The Huskies, sloppy at times in the first half but comfortably ahead because of a vast talent advantage, weren't happy in the locker room at the break, and the Jaguars paid.
"A lot of times with our team, it's not so much making these huge adjustments and necessarily changing what we do," said Maya Moore, who scored 21 points. "It's just the continual pounding and pressure and attack mentality that we put on teams. I think they weren't ready for it."
Tina Charles led UConn with 22 points. The senior center made her first nine shots before missing a baseline jumper for the Huskies (34-0), who have won every game during their winning streak by double digits. UConn hasn't lost since falling to Stanford in the 2008 national semifinals.
The Huskies, who arrived having won their last 10 first-round games by an average of nearly 49 points, led 52-29 at halftime and actually looked pretty sloppy at times. They had 12 turnovers, one more than the Jaguars, but easily dominated in every other category.
"They were just longer, they were taller than us," Jaguars forward Freda Allen said.
Hannah Kador led the Jaguars with 10 points, but shot just 3 for 22.
Southern coach Sandy Pugh said her team stepped out of character after the half.
"We really got away from our offense. We've never been a team than can come down and jack the basketball up and that's what we were doing in the second half," she said.
Moore had 17 points and four 3-pointers by halftime, and the Huskies featured Charles scoring on the inside in the spree to open the second half. The 6-foot-4 center scored eight points in the run, all from in close, and Caroline Doty hit a pair of 3-pointers.
That boosted their lead to 73-31 with 15 minutes left, and Auriemma emptied his bench shortly thereafter. Eleven Huskies got into the game, and nine played at least 10 minutes.
UConn also was credited with 27 assists on 32 field goals.
"That's the way that we love to play," Moore said.
Tiffany Hayes and Kalana Greene added 12 each for the Huskies, who shot 61.5 percent, outrebounded the Southwestern Athletic Conference champs 52-22 and limited them to 23.1 percent shooting. Connecticut also had a 22-4 advantage in points at the foul line.
Southern actually led 2-0 after a short bank shot by Allen, but the Huskies immediately asserted themselves with a 15-2 burst. When consecutive 3-pointers pulled the Jaguars within 20-12, Connecticut got points from seven players in an 18-4 run and coasted.
Southern, making its fourth appearance in the tournament and second in Old Dominion's Constant Center, had a similar experience the first time: a 96-27 loss to Duke in 2006.