There are times when UConn glides. But there are times when UConn grinds. Yes, the champ does have imperfections and Saturday it was called for a 10-second backcourt violation in the first half that may lead the highlight reel.
“We were kind of falling around [in the backcourt] for a bit,” Bria Hartley said. “We could have probably hustled it [the ball up the floor] a little bit more. It happens sometimes.”
But the beauty of this program truly lies in the moments it crosses the threshold from slow to slick. An opponent can just shake its head at the sheer swiftness of the shake down. And it happens, eventually, just about every game.
Example: Down by three points after the first six minutes Saturday, the Huskies used to the final 14 to show Memphis who the boss was, outscoring it by 30.
“It took a little time for us to get it going,” Geno Auriemma said. “We’ve played like five games in the last month and they’ve all been in a different venue. It’s hard to get into a routine.”
When it was over, No. 1 UConn had its 90-49 win over Memphis at the before 6,783 at the FedEx Forum.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies (15-0, 3-0 in The American) with 21 points fueled by 5-for-10 from three-point range. Breanna Stewart had 17 points and eight rebounds. Bria Hartley added 13 points. Stefanie Dolson added her seventh double-double of the season with 12 points, 10 rebounds and two assists.
And walk-on Tierney Lawlor canned another three-pointer. She is 7 of 15 from three this season.
Guard Ariel Hearn led the Tigers with 20 points, the second straight guard to reach that plateau against UConn.
The Huskies ended the first half on a 15-0 run that followed a three-pointer by Ariel Hearn with 5:34 to play. That cut UConn’s lead at the time to 35-23. Then they added the exclamation point with the first four points of the second.
With 16:24 to play in the game, Memphis guard Breigha Wilder-Cochran hit a three-pointer than ended an 0 for 13 drought that spanned 9 minutes, 8 seconds.
Of course, by that time, points of any kind were just statistical line items. And even though UConn basically cruised through the second half, the souvenir from its first trip here was safely bubble-wrapped.
Mosqueda-Lewis had four three-pointers in the first half. But she was just one of the three Huskies to reach double-figures by its end. Hartley (11) and Stewart (11) were also there.
“When everyone plays to their potential, we are hard to stop,” Hartley said.
And so ends UConn’s six-night road trek into the new year. Two more wins have them standing strong (15-0, 3-0) as they headed home immediately following the game.
“We’re 15-0,” Auriemma said. “That’s the goal. I am very happy with my team.”
The game was the second of a double-header that kicked off at 11 a.m., with a men’s game between Memphis and Cincinnati. The announced attendance was 17,191 in this cavernous NBA arena.
By the tip of the women’s game, 60 percent of it was picking out a barbeque sauce on Beale Street, completely unaware, or decidedly disinterested, in the collegiate dynasty on the floor.
“It does make us appreciate our fans even more,” Morgan Tuck. “We realize there are places where women’s basketball isn’t as much of a big deal.”
The Huskies play Houston Tuesday at Gampel Pavilion and Temple on Saturday in Bridgeport before their final non-conference game of the season. It will be a big one, Jan. 13 at No. 9 Baylor, with the nation’s top guard, senior Odyssey Sims
Coming into Saturday’s game UConn’s biggest opponent of late likely been its own aim. In its previous two wins over Cincinnati and UCF, the Huskies shot just 54 of 129 and were 9 of 42 from three. Not good. But that improved Saturday as UConn made 30 of 56 and 8 of 19 from three.
Accenting the obvious had been the struggles of Hartley (7 of 21) and Stewart (7 of 28). But the Huskies managed to easily overcome thanks to the sheer depth of the team.
Hartley started off slowly, missing her first four shots, three from three-point range. But she made 4 of 5 down the stretch in the formative first half and was squarely in the middle of the 38-8 run that ended it.
“Streaky pretty much describes my career,” Hartley admitted. “Sometimes I feel like I am turning games into practices.”