No. 3 UConn routs USF women, 85-51
TAMPA -- Coming in, five of No. 3 UConn's last six victories had been by 40 points or more, so the sheer dominance of Saturday's 85-51 win against USF can only be so surprising.
Two Huskies set or matched career highs, as forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis went off for 32 points and center Stefanie Dolson had 25 points and 10 rebounds; those two alone outscored the Bulls, who trailed by 19 at halftime, still to the cheers of much of the 5,358 announced in the Sun Dome.
The attendance is the largest ever in UConn's five trips to Tampa, and while USF doesn't maintain attendance records for women's basketball, it's believed to be the largest crowd for a single women's home game in school history.
USF (19-9, 8-7 in Big East) sits perilously on the NCAA Tournament bubble, now sorely needing a win Monday at Georgetown to solidify its resume for an at-large berth. The Bulls beat two ranked opponents in Louisville and Syracuse just last week, but Saturday, they were in a different league from the powerhouse Huskies (27-2, 14-1).
"We had to take care of Saturday before we think about Monday," said coach Geno Auriemma, who plays at No. 2 Notre Dame on Monday with the Big East title on the line. "(Mosqueda-Lewis) and Stephanie played like All-American type players, and our whole focus was on today and building some momentum, not necessarily just for Monday night but for next weekend and beyond."
Twelve minutes in, the Bulls trailed just 23-20, but UConn finished the half on a torrid run, scoring 27 points in the final 6:19 for a 50-31 halftime lead. UConn continued to build its lead, despite starting guard Bria Hartley going 0-for-11 with five turnovers.
"The final two and a half minutes of the first half, it's a 7-8-point game," coach Jose Fernandez said. "That's what they do. You've got to avoid the 8-2 run, the 10-2 run. I thought we did that last year up there. We didn't do that today, and you go into the locker room down (19). Hand it to them. We shot 26 percent and a lot had to do with how they defended us, how they defended shots."
USF's senior twins, Andrea and Andrell Smith, playing in their final regular-season home game, struggled from the field, with Andrea going 1-for-8 and Andrell going 2-for-14; they finished with 10 and 7 points, about half their season average. Junior guard Inga Orekhova led the Bulls with 13 points.
Just as the Bulls make a quick turnaround to Georgetown on Monday night, so does UConn, which got into Tampa around midnight Saturday and left Sunday night for South Bend, where they'll face Notre Dame.