Women's Basketball: No. 1 Huskies top South Florida, improve to 21-0
UConn forward Breanna Stewart puts up a 3-point attempt against USF Sunday in Hartford. JON KULAKOFSKY/The Daily Campus
HARTFORD - Most people couldn't make that many shots from behind the arc alone in a locked-up gym. The Huskies did it with a defense in their face, and a pretty good one at that.
Entering Sunday afternoon's matchup, South Florida was allowing opponents to hit 30.4 percent of their 3-point attempts. Over the first 13 minutes, No. 1 UConn (21-0, 8-0 American Athletic Conference) hit 10 of its 11 attempts from behind the arc-a ridiculous rate of 91 percent.
Their long-range shooting went cold late in the half and finished with a more pedestrian 4 of 14 performance over the remainder of the game, but by then the Huskies were well on the way to a comfortable 81-53 win.
"We actually got yelled at because we were taking too many threes at one point," Bria Hartley chuckled. "But I think it's kind of, when you're hitting them, and then you're open, you just want to shoot it every time you get it."
The blistering shooting was more than a one-man effort as well; a collection of three Huskies, Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqeuda-Lewis and Hartley, all hit at least half of their 3-point attempts.
But that doesn't mean things came easy. In fact, during the opening few minutes, USF (10-9, 5-3 American) kept up with the 3-point production, converting on three of its first four tries. Coupled with some missed UConn layups, the Bulls were opportunistic enough to take the lead three separate times and hold it for a total of 3:05-including a three-point edge about five minutes in.
Those early deficits were unusual territory for the Huskies, too, who had trailed for just 26:11 during the course of the season before Wednesday.
Eventually, however, UConn took over, starting with a 16-3 run in the late stages of the first half.
Hartley did quite the job of taking over as well. Prior to this latest stretch, the senior guard had never put together back-to-back 20-point efforts. But with 26 against the Bulls, Hartley has now made it three consecutive games with at least 20.
"My teammates did a good job of finding me," Hartley said. "Stef [Dolson] did a good job of setting screens. And if the shots are open, I'm going to take them."
She also added six assists to the Huskies' unselfish effort, which saw 25 of 30 field goals in the game come courtesy of a helper.
Moriah Jefferson led the team with seven in that category and turned the ball over just once, extending her streak of offensive efficiency. In the past five games, she's tallied 32 assists and countered with just five turnovers.
"She's got a lot of ability," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "And she can take the ball wherever she wants to take it, and that's a huge advantage for any guard."
The strong guard play from those two was even more crucial Sunday with UConn having just six scholarship players at its disposal.
Morgan Tuck, it was announced Saturday, will have surgery on her injured right knee and is out for the remainder of the season. Brianna Banks and Saniya Chong also missed the game due to a sprained ankle and illness, respectively.
The fact that Stewart chipped in by tying her career-high with 29 points, 15 of which came in the second half, certainly didn't hurt the cause.
"I think that all of us have to [step up]," Stewart said. "It's kind of like how it was in the beginning of the season when we were down however many players we were down and everybody needed to step up and take on another role. I think it's kind of like that similar situation again."
UConn has a quick turnaround for its next contest, a Tuesday night trip to Temple. Tip-off in Philadelphia is set for 7 p.m. on SNY.
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