There are many ways to measure how surreal the world in which the UConn women’s basketball program operates is.
For instance, most of the 3,500 fans that showed up on New Year’s Day at Central Florida’s CFE Arena were cheering for the road team.
Perhaps the best is realize how a 33-point win last Sunday against Cincinnati might be categorized by its somewhat sloppy nature; an offense averaging 86.3 points before the tip scored just 67 after it.
Still, the players understand why this happens.
“Every day in practice the coaches get on you about performing at a certain level,” sophomore Breanna Stewart said. “And meeting their expectations is something that comes along with playing at Connecticut … You want to make every single shot, if you can.”
Geno Auriemma basically feels the same way. It isn’t the margin of victory that mattered as much as the process their got his team there. And he didn’t need to watch the film to know that it wasn’t smooth.
So Wednesday’s game at Central Florida, UConn’s first in the Orlando area since 1999, was about trying to get the offense back on the rails before bad habits take hold.
The Huskies (14-0) essentially accomplished what they came to do. Even though their shooting percentage was only slightly higher (42.6) than its 41.0 three days earlier, they handled Central Florida, 77-49.
Senior Stefanie Dolson, on her way to another All-American season, was marvelous. She scored 25 points on 11 of 14 shooting and had 12 rebounds, hustling up and down the floor in each of her 33 minutes.
“Some of our players still jog up on the floor. Not Stefanie. She runs the floor hard,” Auriemma said. “She ends up with layups in transition. The guards do a great job of finding her in half court. Put those together, and you have a night like tonight.”
She left the game with approximately three minutes to play, just one point shy of tying her career single-game scoring high. When she scores her next basket – or two free throws – Saturday at Memphis, she and Bria Hartley will become just the third set of UConn classmates with 1,500 career points – Swin Cash and Asjha Jones (2002), Ann Strother and Barbara Turner (2006).
“My teammates did a great job of finding me with excellent passes when I was open,” Dolson said. “All I had to do was finish the play.”
Still, there were some imperfections. The Huskies were 4 of 17 from three, not much better than the 5 of 25 that slowed them down against Cincinnati.
Hartley was 3 of 11 from the field and is now 15 of 44 shooting 8 of 9 for 25 points in the win over UC Davis on Dec. 5.
Stewart, who scored 11 points with six assists and eight rebounds at UCF, was 3 of 13 and is 7-for-28 from the floor since tying her career-high with 29 points against California at Madison Sqaure Garden on Dec. 22.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, again weighed down with two first-half fouls, played just 19 minutes, took only six shots and scored six points, with five rebounds and three assists.
But UConn moved the ball much more productively, assisting on 19 of their 29 baskets. Against Cincinnati, which vowed to try and four the Huskies into at least four passes before a shot, only 10 of its 25 baskets were assisted. Previous to that, its 13 assists on 28 baskets against Ohio State was the season-low.
All in all, Auriemma was pleased.
“I think we missed more makeable easy layups than we have in a year,” Auriemma said. “In the first half [UConn led 46-22] we got shots of all varieties, pretty much got anything we wanted. We played OK, we didn’t play great then in the second half. Things kind of slowed down.”