Hartley’s 25 Points Paces UConn Win

by Categorized: Bria Hartley, UConn women's basketball Date:

After coaching his 1,000th game Saturday at Houston, Geno Auriemma warned his audience not to start planning the 2,000th celebration. And how could you blame him?
It would take time and energy to get there, things he likely won’t have in abundance considering he’d be pushing 89 years old by then. And really, who wants to prod your team through numbing conference games at that point?
So Tuesday was just the next day in the life of Auriemma and his No. 1 team. And perhaps, another slow start lingered too deep into the first half for his liking.
But the first game of the next grand was a lot like 867 that preceded it. UConn drilled SMU, 81-48, before a crowd of 4,091 at Moody Coliseum, the largest to watch a women’s basketball game in the building’s history.
The Huskies were led by senior Bria Hartley, who continued on her All-American roll with xx points, her third straight 20-plus game and the fourth in her last six.
Breanna Stewart scored 23 points (11 of 21), 16 in the first half. She added five assists, five rebounds and four blocked shots in 32 minutes,
Other than that, it was something of an offensive effort as the team struggled for production against an opponent not interested in the least in getting pushed around at home.
The win was 35 straight for the Huskies (29-0, 16-0) and brings them within two games of the end of their first regular season in the American Athletic Conference.
If the Huskies beat Rutgers Saturday at Gampel Pavilion and then No. 3 Louisville (27-2) on Monday at the Yum Center, they will wrap up first seed in the tournament which runs March 7-10 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Running the table would give the Huskies the 10th undefeated conference season in its history. They reeled off three straight in the Big East (2008-11) until losing three in the 2011-12 season.
UConn was coming off a 51-point in Houston on Saturday knowing they’d already defeated the Mustangs by 61 at the on Feb. 4 at Gampel Pavilion. Aside from the margin, the game was notable for the 14 field goals scored by SMU, which translated into a shooting percentage of 20 percent.
And this is a team with the AAC’s top scorer, Keena Mays, leading the way. She has had four 30-point games this season, but it took her 24 shots to score 20 the last time they played.
On Tuesday, she scored 13.
The Huskies led 37-17 at the half, but it wasn’t that simple. They trailed three times in the first 3:24 for a cumulative total of 1:16 and it wasn’t until they put together and 11-0 run that a 15-7 lead added some cushion.
But even though SMU was struggling again from the field, making just 5 of its first 22 shots, UConn’s lead was just 18-12 with 10:02 to play. Mays first points, a three with 7:48 to play, cut the lead to 20-15. And after the team’s traded the next two hoops, UConn’s lead was 22-17 with 4:04 remaining.
And then in a flash, as if often happens, it was over.
Stewart’s basket opened a run of 15-0 that ended the half and the Huskies had their first 20-point lead. The sophomore was 8-for-10 from field in the half with 16 points.
Still, there were pockets or problems, similar to those Auriemma hopes to wipe out before tournament play.
UConn was 2 of 10 from three in the first half, 5 of 10 from the free throw line. What saved them was stalwart defense (SMU shot 7-for-32) and great accuracy inside the arc, where the Huskies were 13 of 14.

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