UConn destroys Southern Methodist by 61 points
Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 23:02
As they so often have the ability to do, No. 1 UConn took a respectable team and made them look pedestrian Tuesday night.
The Huskies stymied SMU (14-8, 5-6 American Athletic Conference) for the opening five minutes and racked up a 19-0 lead in the process en route to a 102-41 win.
Things didn’t slow down much in the late stages, either – UConn shot 76 percent in the second half to keep the Mustangs at bay.
“It’s easier to make shots when you’re up 50 than it is when you’re up five,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “[…]But I’ve also seen it go the other way, when we’re up a bunch and it just turns into a circus out there. It didn’t do that today.”
His squad’s stifling defense allowed Keena Mays, who entered the night as the conference’s leading scorer at 20.1 points per game, to pick up 20 on the night, but severely limited the effectiveness of the Mustangs’ other players. No one else for SMU cracked five points.
UConn’s ability to turn shots away – the Huskies’ 14 blocks were the seventh time this season they had blocked at least 10 shots – was vital to the effort, which held SMU to its lowest total of the season and well under its season average of 71.3 points.
“It’s surprising, I give them credit that they keep coming into the lane,” Stefanie Dolson said, “kind of knowing that we might block it and that we have a really good chance of blocking it.”
With how the Huskies were able to keep shots from underneath the basket from ever reaching their target, SMU’s outside shooting was put at a premium, but was unable to convert. The Mustangs shot just 3 of 19 from behind the arc.
“It changes a lot,” Bria Hartley said. “I remember when we did play Brittney Griner, you think you’re going to have a wide open layup and then she comes and blocks it. So you kind of need to go in there kind of cautiously and kick the ball out if you see a shooter…it’s hard, especially when you have three shot blockers like [Breanna Stewart], Stef and [Kiah Stokes] back there, it’s not only just one person, it’s three of them.”
For the second straight game, it was a collective effort on the offensive end of the court for the Huskies (24-0, 11-0 American Athletic Conference) as well.
Five players – Moriah Jefferson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Stewart, Hartley and Dolson – scored in double-digits, and six of UConn’s seven scholarship players had tallied at least a point within the first eight minutes of the game.
Hartley opened the night by scoring seven of the Huskies’ 11 points, but picked up two fouls within the first 5:01 and was forced into a stint on the bench. The layoff cooled her hot hand temporarily and limited her to just two points in the remainder of the half, but the offensive rhythm returned in the second half.
“There’s times when you kind of get out there and you sit out the rest of the half, it kind of takes a shot at your confidence a little bit, the fact that you’re not out there playing,” said Hartley, who finished with a game-high 21. “But I think you’ve always have to come back strong...I think we always come back strong because we have that chip on our shoulder when we come back in.”
The Huskies, who have struggled to rebound the ball at times this season, won the battle on the glass, 48-39, thanks in large part to 11 boards apiece from Dolson and Mosqueda-Lewis, both of whom finished with double-doubles.
Brianna Banks reinjured her previously sprained left ankle in practice Monday and was unable to play.
The biggest home game of UConn’s conference slate, a national championship rematch with No. 4 Louisville, looms on Sunday. That game is set for a 1 p.m. tip-off on ESPN.