Memphis No Match for Huskies
By PAT EATON-ROBB
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma has had teams that could steal passes, and he’s had teams that could block shots. This season, he has a team that can do both.
The top-ranked Huskies had 20 steals and six blocks Wednesday night in an 83-49 victory over Memphis that gave unbeaten UConn its 20th win.
“If you can’t do one or both of those things, it’s hard to be a great team,” Auriemma said.
The Huskies (20-0, 7-0 American Athletic Conference) also can score.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 21 points and Bria Hartley added 20 to lead UConn to its 26th straight win dating to last year’s run to the program’s eighth NCAA championship. Breanna Stewart added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Huskies. Stefanie Dolson had 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Hartley followed up a career-best 30-point performance Sunday by reaching double digits for the fourth consecutive game. It was the first time the senior has had back-to-back games of 20 points or more.
“I’m just out there trying to be aggressive,” she said. “Getting out in transition was kind of what I was good at today, and was able to get easy layups. Being aggressive all the time is what really helps me.”
Breigha Wilder-Cochran scored 12 points to lead Memphis (10-9, 3-4), which had a three-game winning streak snapped. Asianna Fuqua-Bey added 10 points but turned the ball over 11 times.
The Huskies got off to a slow start, missing their first six shots before a layup by Stewart gave them a 4-2 lead.
Fuqua-Bey scored six of the Tigers’ first eight points, and 5 minutes into the game the Tigers were down just 11-8.
But the Huskies slowly increased the lead. One of Moriah Jefferson’s nine steals led to Stewart’s layup that made it 31-21, and a jumper by Hartley gave UConn a 39-23 lead at halftime.
Mosqueda-Lewis capped a 14-2 run early in the second half with a 3-pointer that put UConn up 55-30, and a 3-pointer by Stewart gave the Huskies their first 30-point lead with just under 9 minutes to play.
UConn forced 27 turnovers while committing 13 of its own.
It’s the 21st consecutive 20-win season for the Huskies, who had not been 20-0 since they went undefeated during the 2009-10 season. The Huskies have opened 20-0 eight times, winning national championships during five of those seasons.
UConn is working on a string of eight straight 30-win campaigns.
The win gave Connecticut a season sweep against the Tigers. UConn beat Memphis by 41 points when the teams met in Tennessee on Jan. 4. Mosqueda-Lewis also scored 21 points in that game.
“UConn is the best team in the country. You don’t go into your locker room, at this stage, and bang your hand on the chalkboard and say, `We’re going to beat UConn,”’ Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin said. “That might sound stupid at this stage, but we have to talk about growing into this level of competition.”
Dolson, who had the ninth double-double of her career, also blocked her 50th shot of the season in the second half. Kiah Stokes had two blocks to give her 51. They join Stewart, who has 54 blocks, in becoming the first Huskies trio to all reach that mark in the same season.
“As we continue to get better, better things are going to happen on defense,” Stewart said. “Kiah, myself and Stefanie are really being aggressive when it comes to blocking shots and hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”
Connecticut was again without injured forward Morgan Tuck, who missed her 12th game this season. She is dealing with a bone bruise in her right knee and has missed the last four games after sitting out eight in a row earlier this season. Auriemma said it is becoming frustrating as both she and the coaches see the season slipping away.
Brianna Banks also played less than a minute Wednesday on an injured ankle, leaving the Huskies with just seven scholarship players.
“We’ve had to kind of zig and zag, figure out a way to do it, but I’m proud of what we’re doing defensively,” Auriemma said.
Memphis’ leading scorer, Ariel Hearn, who had 20 points in the first meeting, made just three of her 12 shots and was held to seven points.
It was the 10th time Memphis has played the nation’s No. 1 team and two of those meetings have been against UConn this season. Memphis fell to 1-9 against top-ranked opponents, with its lone win back on Feb. 11, 1984, over Louisiana Tech.
The Huskies came into the game beating teams by an average of 36 points.
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