CLAWING THE WILDCATS
Huskies rout Villanova to move to 19-1
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 00:01
The night started off with a bang and only got louder from there.
Over the first 2:04 of the game, the UConn women’s basketball team opened up on a 7-0 run that ignited the XL Center crowd.
Though they would allow Villanova to claw back to within 7-4, that was as close as they let the Wildcats get, as the Huskies dominated from start to finish en route to a 76-43 win.
With the score reading 14-8 with 13:48 remaining in the first half, UConn unleashed a 30-9 run to close out the half with a 27-point lead.
Both Stefanie Dolson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis caught fire throughout the opening 20 minutes for the Huskies, as they tallied 15 and 14 points, respectively, on 10-of-15 combined shooting in the first half.
“Stefanie and Kaleena, they’re in a really, really good rhythm right now, they’re in a good place,” UConn Coach Geno Auriemma said. “They’re just really, really confident right now.”
“It just felt good tonight,” said Mosqueda-Lewis, who finished the game with 19 points and hit five of her six shots from behind the arc. “Whenever I shot the ball it felt like a good shot, it was a smart shot and luckily tonight they just were falling.”
Just as important as the offense that the duo provided the Huskies was their defensive work.
For most of the night, Dolson was matched up against Villanova’s leading scorer, Laura Sweeney, in the post, and managed to hold her to just five points.
“She’s extremely tough, aggressive,” Dolson said of Sweeney. “When she gets the ball on offense, it was tough for me, personally, to guard her just because she’s very quick. But with that it was just good help defense. I mean any time she beat me, there was just always someone there to help and just make her take tough shots.”
Despite the fact that the Wildcats had two players averaging double-digit points on the season entering the game, not a single player reached the 10-point mark on the night. Jesse Carey led the way for Villanova with nine.
Before the start of the second half, UConn assistant coach Chris Dailey had the crowd tell her players to “stay aggressive,” and for the most part, her team happily obliged, as they outscored the Wildcats 32-26 to end the game.
“Today, for a little bit of a stretch in the second half, we played the kind of defense that I had them in, which wasn’t really aggressive,” said Auriemma, who likened the defensive scheme at the beginning of the second half to a prevent-defense in football. “But other than that, I thought they did. I thought they stayed aggressive.”
Throughout those final 20 minutes, his team’s large advantage allowed Auriemma to work his bench players into the game for big chunks of time.
Morgan Tuck, Breanna Stewart, Brianna Banks, Kiah Stokes and Moriah Jefferson all logged double-digit minutes on the night and combined for a total of 21 points. Heather Buck also played the last three minutes of the night and hit a layup with just under a minute remaining for her only two points of the game.
“It’s really great to be able to have them get some time and just get some experience,” Mosqueda-Lewis said of her teammates. “It’s about to be tournament time – we’re going to need that – so for them to get the experience and get the confidence that they need for later on is nice.”
Though they owned a 48-28 rebounding advantage and held the Wildcats, who hit 31 percent of their threes, to just 7-of-28 from behind the arc, the most telling statistic of the night was UConn’s nine turnovers.
Ball security has been an issue for the Huskies all season long, and their ability to hold onto the ball throughout the night was integral to their success.
“I think our biggest thing, always, is you know, with our guards, it kind of starts with them getting too fast and making decisions too quickly, and then they end up begin turnovers,” Dolson, who finished the night with 20 points, said. “So I think tonight we did an awesome job of just pushing the ball in transition and speeding the game up, but at the same time making smart decisions, passing the ball well, just executing well on offense and taking care of the ball.”
Next up for the Huskies is a trip to Queens, N.Y. to take on St. John’s. The Red Storm handed UConn a loss in Gampel Pavilion last season, snapping their 99-game home winning streak.
That game is set for a 2 p.m. tip-off and can be seen on SNY or heard on WTIC 1080 AM.