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USF women fall to UConn

TAMPA — Coming in, five of No. 3 UConn's previous six victories had been by 40 points or more, so the sheer dominance of Saturday's 85-51 win against USF isn't that surprising.

Two Huskies set or matched career highs, as forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis went off for 32 points, her best, and center Stefanie Dolson had 25 points and 10 rebounds. Those two alone outscored the Bulls, who trailed by 19 at halftime but still heard the cheers of much of the announced crowd of 5,358 in the Sun Dome.

USF doesn't maintain attendance records for women's basketball, but it's believed to be the largest crowd for a single women's home game in school history, and it was largest in UConn's five trips to Tampa.

USF (19-9, 8-7 Big East) sits on the NCAA Tournament bubble, 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 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, whose Huskies play Monday at No. 2 Notre Dame with the Big East regular-season title on the line. "(Mosqueda-Lewis) and Stefanie 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 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 2½ minutes of the first half, it's a seven-, eight-point game," Bulls 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 (Saturday), 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, struggled in their final regular-season home game. Andrea shot 1-for-8 and Andrell 2-for-14; they finished with 10 and seven points, respectively, about half of their season average. Junior guard Inga Orekhova led the Bulls with 13 points.

Just as the Bulls will make a quick turnaround to Georgetown on Monday night, so did UConn, which got into Tampa around midnight Friday and left Saturday for South Bend, Ind., where it will face Notre Dame.

USF women fall to UConn 03/02/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 2, 2013 10:40pm]
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