By PAT EATON-ROBB
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ UConn’s Breanna Stewart is learning she doesn’t always have to shoot well to dominate a game.
The Huskies sophomore star hit just four of 15 shots and scored 12 points in a 67-34 win Sunday over Cincinnati. But she also had 12 rebounds, four steals and two blocks in leading the Huskies defense, which held the Bearcats to 13 baskets on 53 shots.
“Coach has always been on me about, just keep moving, be aggressive,” Stewart said. “Obviously if your shot’s not falling, you can still impact the game in different ways.”
Moriah Jefferson and Bria Hartley each added 12 points for Connecticut (13-0, 1-0 American Athletic Conference), which won its first ever American Athletic Conference game despite being held 19 points below its season average.
Cincinnati (7-5, 0-1 American), which is winless in nine meetings against the Huskies, was led by Jeanise Randolph who had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Huskies held Cincinnati scoreless for the game’s first six minutes and led 16-0 before Kayla Cook got the Bearcats on the board with a 3-pointer. UConn led by 13 at halftime and used a 16-3 run in the second half to put the game out of reach.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had seven points during the Huskies early run, but also picked up three early fouls and had to sit for the final 14 minutes of the first half and didn’t score again.
“We kind of got stuck, and we stayed stuck for the rest of the first half,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
Cincinnati responded by scoring 14 of the next 20 points and outscoring UConn 20-17 the rest of the half. A 3-pointer by Marley Hill just before the halftime buzzer cut the UConn lead to 33-20.
Cincinnati cut the lead to 35-24 before UConn took control. Hartley went end-to-end after rebounding a missed jumper by Bianca Quisenberry to give UConn a 51-27 lead and force a Cincinnati timeout.
“It’s always good to win a game when you’re not making shots and you have to find other ways to compete and get into the game,” Hartley said. “Even though our offense wasn’t good today, we were able to come out and play well defensively.
UConn, which came in shooting almost 52 percent from the floor, was held to 41 percent, including 36 percent in the first half. But the Bearcats were worse, shooting 25 percent, hitting just 13 of 53 shots from the floor.
Mosqueda-Lewis said that had a lot to do with Stewart getting in the passing lanes and disrupting the Bearcats’ offense.
“Coach has been talking about how we have to be complete players and we have to be mature,” she said. “When you miss shots, you can’t disappear, especially when you’re as good a player as she is. You have to do other things.”
The Bearcats’, who came in on a five-game winning streak, also got a bit banged up. The team’s leading scorer, Dayeesha Hollins, went out in the first half after hyperextending her right elbow diving for a loose ball. She returned, with that elbow heavily wrapped, and finished with just five points. Forward Alexis Durley also went down hard after a first-half foul by Stefanie Dolson and came back into the game with her right shoulder wrapped.
“I think Day’s (injury) is a little more serious,” said Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott. “I just hope with some treatment these guys will be ready to go in a couple days.”
The Huskies played five Top 25 teams during their non-conference schedule, with Baylor still to come in January, winning those games by an average of 22 points. The conference schedule promises to be less of a challenge. UConn and Louisville are the only ranked teams in the American and they will face each other twice.
UConn is 64-7 against AAC opponents with six of those losses coming to Rutgers, a team they have not lost to in the last five seasons. The other defeat came against Louisville, in 1993.
The Huskies took time during Sunday’s game to honor their national championship teams from 2003 and 2004, unveiling plaques on the arena’s wall of honor. Several former players attended the ceremony, but star Diana Taurasi was not among them. She is playing basketball overseas.
UConn now heads south for a New Year’s Day game against Central Florida. Cincinnati will visit SMU.
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