Kelly Faris Flourishes againts Duke
Kelly Faris is usually a quiet threat, always doing the right thing, but rarely receiving much notoriety for her efforts.
That was far from the case Monday night.
"That was one for the ages," Geno Auriemma said after the game.
On a night where center Stefanie Dolson managed just six points due to foul trouble, in stepped Kelly Faris to fill the void.
Despite matching a season-high with 18 points on the night, it was Faris' 12 boards and tenacious defense that really turned heads throughout the game and led to a shower of praise after it.
"She's really a special player," Duke Coach Joanne McCallie said in her postgame press conference. "You look at that stat line - 12 rebounds - we don't have anybody that gets 12 rebounds. Twelve rebounds, six assists, 18 points, two steals, she plays like a senior, she plays with great experience."
Those 18 points and 12 rebound marked just Faris' third career double-double.
Though she contributed seven points in the first half, it was her effort during a five minute stretch early in the second half that made the difference in the game.
After Dolson picked up her fourth foul with 16:15 remaining, Faris responded by spearheading a game-changing, blowout-starting 16-0 run over 5:31 seconds during which she chipped in with three assists, three rebounds and two points.
She also held Chelsea Gray - who came into the night as Duke's second-leading scorer with 14 points per game - to just two points on the night and forced her into four turnovers.
"If you were a part of what Kelly Faris did tonight, you just saw a performance that people are going to be talking about for a long time," Auriemma said. "There's been some great players playing in this building, there's been some legends play in this building wearing that Connecticut uniform but I don't know that anybody ever represented that uniform and herself and her family the way that kid did tonight."
As she left the floor with 1:36 remaining and a 28 point lead on the scoreboard, the coach wrapped his senior guard in a bear hug while all 9,671 in attendance greeted her with a standing ovation.
"It feels good," Faris said of the crowd reaction to her performance. "I said out there earlier that our fans are awesome - and I don't just say that just because - but tonight they really showed up, especially our student section, and I don't think they understand how much emotion and drive they give us when they're that loud."
After UConn committed 12 turnovers in the first half, Assistant Coach Chris Dailey asked the crowd for a little help before the last 20 minutes of the game.
Upon emerging from the tunnel, she pleaded with the crowd to shout, "no more turnovers" at the team, and it seemed to work, as the Huskies turned the ball over just three times the rest of the night.
In fact, according to the team, the crowd had a lot to do with the victory.
In addition to Faris' sentiments about the crowd, Kaleena-Mosqueda Lewis seemed to enjoy the raucous atmosphere inside Gampel Pavilion.
"I don't think we've had this many fans in Gampel since the Notre Dame game and I don't think we've ever had that many student fans," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "It's just exciting to have them here and cheering for us and when something big happens you feel good, you're like, 'Ah, they're behind me, they've got my back.'"
In addition to the normal student turnout, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier and RJ Evans were standing in the front row throughout the night, waving a cardboard cutout of Mosqueda-Lewis and dogging the refs after several questionable calls.
"It's nice to see our men's team supporting us," Bria Hartley said of her counterparts being in attendance.
Auriemma too was impressed with the support, simply stating, "The crowd was great, the crowd was amazing."
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