By: PAT EATON-ROBB
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Moriah Jefferson scored a career-high 17 points and top-ranked Connecticut began the defense of its eighth national title with an 89-34 rout of in-state rival Hartford on Saturday.
The sophomore guard, who also had five assists, led a balanced offensive that saw four players reach double figures.
Center Stefanie Dolson had 16 points and six rebounds. Breanna Stewart added 14 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis chipped in 12 for the Huskies.
Freshman Deanna Mayza led Hartford with eight points.
The competition for the Huskies gets much stiffer very quickly for UConn, which hosts No. 3 Stanford on Monday and has road games against No. 8 Maryland and No. 13 Penn State in the next eight days.
Connecticut hit its first six shots, and used an 18-0 to go up 27-9 and take control of the game. UConn held the Hawks without a point for almost 8 1/2 minutes during that spurt.
Dolson hit seven of her eight shots from the floor, including two 3-pointers. The senior center had made eight shots from behind the arc in her Connecticut career, and all of those came last season.
A fast-break layup by Jefferson with 2 1/2 minutes to go in the first half gave the Huskies their first 30 point lead at 47-16 and UConn led 55-17 at the break.
The Huskies had just two turnovers in the first half, while forcing 15 by Hartford.
Hartford shot just 27 percent from the field and turned the ball over 22 times.
Another Jefferson layup less than a minute into the second half put UConn up by 40 points, and one with just under 4 minutes left in the game gave the Huskies an 84-34 lead.
The Huskies won by more than 20 points 29 times last season and by 30 or more 23 times, including a 68-point win over Idaho in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
It was the 18th consecutive time UConn has won its opening game, and the 21st consecutive win in a home opener. The Huskies haven’t lost the first game of a season since falling to Louisiana Tech in 1995.
Hartford was playing without two key players. Forward Katie Roth, projected to be the Hawks best front-line player, and guard Mallory Shickora both were lost in the preseason with season-ending knee injuries.
The Hawks, who won 21 games in 2012-13 and are picked to finish second in the America East this season, started three freshmen against the Huskies.
Geno Auriemma played everyone on his bench, and walk on freshman Briana Pulido was the only Husky without a point.
Freshman guard Saniya Chong had eight points.
UConn guard Brianna Banks, playing for the first time since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a Feb. 2 win at St. John’s, played 22 minutes and had three points.
The Huskies are now 297-14 while playing as the nation’s top-ranked team.