Huskies Rise to the Occasion
By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ Geno Auriemma was hoping for an early season test for his top-ranked Connecticut Huskies. He just didn’t want it to come at the price of losing his All-America forward.
Bria Hartley had 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists to help No. 1 Connecticut beat No. 3 Stanford 76-57 on Monday night.
Kiah Stokes added 10 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks for the Huskies (2-0), who got a scare early in the second half when preseason All-America Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis went down trying for a rebound.
She landed awkwardly on her right elbow and was down screaming in pain for a few minutes before being helped to the locker room. Auriemma wasn’t sure how badly his star was hurt.
“They are just going to keep evaluating her (Tuesday) and see how she responds,” Auriemma said. “They really don’t know anything right now. She landed with her palm on the floor then when her arm bent her elbow hit the floor. There are two separate things she’s trying to figure out.”
The injury didn’t slow down the Huskies, who were in the middle of a 22-6 run that spanned the halves.
Morgan Tuck, her replacement, scored eight straight points, including two 3-pointers, to make it 53-32 with 13:19 left. Stanford couldn’t get closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Amber Orrange scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Cardinal (1-1). Chiney Ogwumike added 16 points and 13 rebounds, but Stanford got little other offense.
“I think this kind of let our team know we’re 20 points away,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “How do you make that up. We gave up too many `O’ boards for baskets. We sent them to free throw line for no reason. We need to do little things correctly and focus on that for the rest of the season.”
The Huskies have to hope that Mosqueda-Lewis isn’t injured too badly. They have a busy week ahead with a trip to No. 8 Maryland on Friday before a game at No. 13 Penn State on Sunday.
“It seems like these three games are not exactly teams that are going to let you do what you want to do. It’s difficult. Maybe it’s supposed to be difficult,” Auriemma said. “Last year was very easy at the beginning. We went down won by a bunch and everything was going smoothly. This one’s not going to go smoothly. This one is hard.”
The Cardinal and Huskies have had a lot of big games over the past few seasons. Last year UConn snapped Stanford’s 82-game unbeaten run at Maples Pavilion with an easy 61-35 victory. Two years earlier the Cardinal stopped the Huskies’ NCAA record 90-game winning streak. They also met in the Final Four or NCAA championship game three straight years from 2008-10.
A lot less was on the line Monday night. The game got off to a sluggish start with both teams missing open shots.
The teams combined to miss 14 of their first 16 field goal attempts. To make matters worse for the Huskies, preseason All-America Breanna Stewart picked up two quick fouls and sat out the rest of the half. In stepped Stokes.
The 6-foot-3 junior was dominant on both ends of the court. Blocking shots, grabbing rebounds and hitting free throws, Stanford had no answer for her.
UConn led 31-26 with 2:28 left in the half before scoring the final eight points of the period. Stokes got the run started with a turnaround jumper. She finished the first half with eight points, eight rebounds and five blocks and helped the Huskies pull away to a 39-26 lead.
“Kiah played the best game she’s played since she’s been at Connecticut,” Auriemma said. “She was unbelievably good in just about every area. I hope that’s the beginning of something that changes our team tremendously.”
Stanford couldn’t muster much offense besides Ogwumike and Orrange. The two combined for 22 of the team’s 26 points at the half. They were 9 for 16 from the field while the rest of the team was just 2 for 19.
“We’ll be a different team come December, March, April. The goal is to grow from this experience,” Ogwumike said. “This team (UConn) is the standard. Take that as motivation to get better throughout the year.”
With the loss, VanDerveer remained five victories short of becoming the fifth coach to reach 900. She’s trying to join Pat Summitt, Sylvia Hatchell, C. Vivian Stringer and Jody Conradt.
This was Stanford’s first trip to Connecticut’s campus since 1993. The Cardinal won that game 68-54. The teams have played their other games in Connecticut in Hartford.
The Huskies celebrated last season’s eighth national championship one final time by unveiling a banner commemorating the title they won in New Orleans.
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