The first sign that normalcy had returned to UConn was tied in a Windsor knot around Geno Auriemma’s neck.
It was tie, the accessory strangely scratched from Auriemma’s business attire during the Big East tournament. And Saturday’s was a birthday tie; the Hall of Famer turned 59 and was serenaded for such after the team’s morning shoot-around.
Truth is, Auriemma without a tie looked out of sorts last week, like his team during the forgettable final 18.6 seconds its championship game loss to Notre Dame.
But the open collar and disappointment were buttoned shut Saturday during a revitalizing 105-37 win over No. 16 Idaho in the first-round of the Bridgeport Regional at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies (30-4) have now won at least 30 games 18 times since 1993-94 for Auriemma. They will try for one more Monday when they play Vanderbilt in the second round.
Led by Tiffany Clarke’s 16 points, the Commodores, a long-time SEC powerhouse, defeated St. Joseph (Pa.), 60-54, in Saturday’s first Gampel sub-regional game.
UConn has six players score double-figures led by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. She scored each of her game-high 22 points in the first half.
Freshman Morgan Tuck added 18 points. Freshman Moriah Jefferson scored a career-high 16 points.
Sophomore Kiah Stokes had her second career double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) including the bucket that pushed the Huskies over 100 with 1:59 to play.
Bria Hartley scored all of her 13 points in the first half. And Stef Dolson added 10 points.
Stacey Barr led the Vandals (17-16) with 14 points. It was Idaho’s first NCAA playoff appearance since 1985, just its second ever.
What was more important than the tie was the terror the Huskies inflicted on Idaho, especially during the first half when they scored the first 15 points on the way to a 58-17 lead.
Not that it got much better in the second. The Vandals (17-16), champion of the Western Athletic Conference, had one point in the first 8:23 of the second half before Connie Ballestero scored with 11:37 remaining.
That pulled Idaho within 58 points.