CINCINNATI (AP) _ Third-ranked UConn knew this was a bad matchup for one of its former players and coaches. Then again, anytime one of Geno Auriemma’s former assistants tests the Huskies, it’s a predictable outcome.
Connecticut always wins.
Stefanie Dolson scored 15 points in limited time on Saturday night, and Connecticut’s tough, physical defense allowed only nine points in the first half, setting up a 67-31 victory over Cincinnati.
UConn (18-1, 5-1 Big East) has won six in a row since a 73-72 loss to Notre Dame on Jan. 5. The Huskies were coming off a 30-point win over No. 4 Duke on Monday, outscoring the Blue Devils 47-19 in the second half to send them to their first loss of the season.
They put this one away in the first half, allowing a season-low nine points.
“They’re struggling right now, obviously,” Auriemma said. “They’ve had some injuries and they’re having trouble scoring points. We’re probably not the team you want to play if you’re having trouble scoring points.”
Breanna Stewart added 10 points for UConn, which dominated the boards 49-28.
The Bearcats (8-11, 0-6) have lost six in a row overall. They’ve been held to 45 points or fewer in each of last four games, including a 72-33 loss at Louisville. Cincinnati’s problem: A few players are hurt and nobody can score besides Dayeesha Hollins, who leads the team with 16.3 points per game. No one else averages more than 7.7 points.
Hollins finished with seven points on 2-of-11 shooting. Alyesha Lovett had a team-high nine points.
UConn is 8-0 all-time against Cincinnati, winning by 21, 10, 37, 31, 31, 34, 43 and 36 points. Coach Jamelle Elliott, a former UConn player and assistant to Auriemma, fell to 0-4 against her former team. Auriemma has never lost to a former player or coach.
They went out to dinner on Saturday night to catch up. They had a friendly and animated exchange at midcourt after the pregame introductions. Then, Elliott watched the Huskies’ defense push her team around and take it apart.
“That makes us really unstoppable,” Dolson said. “We’re one of those teams that our defense sparks our offense. We’re able to score points in transition and play the game we like to play.”
The Bearcats enjoyed the opening minute, hitting a pair of jumpers for a 4-0 lead. UConn’s physical man-to-man defense didn’t allow Hollins to touch the ball _ she got only one shot in the first 11 minutes _ and quickly took control.
After that encouraging first minute, the Bearcats went 1 of 22 from the field with 10 turnovers the rest of the half, scoring only five more points.
“We continue to struggle shooting the basketball,” Elliott said. “In the second half, they didn’t pressure us as much as they did in the first half, and they played zone, which is what we needed to have guys knock down some open shots.”
The Huskies led 41-9 at halftime, the fewest points UConn has allowed in an opening half this season. Hollins took five shots in the half and missed all of them. Elliott repeatedly yelled, “Get open!” and covered her face with both hands after one particularly bad possession.
Dolson _ at 6-foot-5 the tallest player on the floor _ helped the Huskies pull ahead by double-digits. She made a 3-pointer and had 11 of UConn’s first 17 points, getting easy baskets inside and hitting her first five shots overall.
“You always look at the other team and what you can do to make it easier to score,” Dolson said. “They did a good job getting me the ball inside.”
Connecticut closed the half with a 24-1 run that included points from six players, underscoring the Huskies’ depth. It was 58-13 early in the second half before Jasmine Whitfield hit Cincinnati’s first 3-pointer of the game after the Bearcats missed their first 10 shots from behind the arc.
Dolson played only 25 minutes _ a team high _ as UConn rested its starters for most of the second half. Elliott was impressed by how UConn’s reserves kept up the pressure even when Auriemma eased up.
“They’re deeper this year with Breanna Stewart coming off the bench,” Elliott said. “I was telling Geno this last night: I think 1-through-10 they’re able to maintain that level that those starters play with. The last two or three years, he hasn’t had that depth. This year, I think he has that. The players that were playing a lot of minutes last year also have upped their game.”
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