There were no surprises. For UConn coach Geno Auriemma it was like getting a gift and already knowing what was in the box. His top ranked and #1 seeded Huskies celebrated Coach’s 60th birthday by scoring the first fifteen points of the game, leading by 32 at the half and steamrolling 16th seeded Prairie View A & M, 87-44, in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship at Gampel Pavilion on the Storrs campus. All five UConn starters hit for double figures behind Breanna Stewarts double-double (19 pts, 10 rbs) and, for the second time in three years, the Huskies opened the tournament by shellacking the Prairie View Panther squad.
The win sets up a Lincoln Regional Final matchup with the ninth seeded Saint Joseph’s Tuesday evening in Storrs. The Hawks held off a determined eighth seeded Georgia Bulldog team, 67-57, in the first game of the Sunday evening double-header.
There was little doubt the Panthers would be in for a long night. Stefanie Dolson (11 pts, 6 rbs) scored eight of UConn’s first ten points, and the Huskies blanked the SWAC Champions for the first five and a half minutes of the game, before a Gabrielle Scott jumper got Prairie View (14-18) on the board. It was barely a blip on the screen, as UConn (35-0) closed out the half on a 29-10 run, rolling into the locker room with a commanding 44-12 lead.
Said Auriemma, who’s Huskies have contended with significant injury and illness this season, “They have been able to withstand a lot, starting with November when (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis) and Morgan (Tuck) went down, it’s been the same thing every night. They know they have to play well, they know they have to stay out of foul trouble, and they know they have to execute.”
The early minutes of the second half mirrored the first, with UConn holding Prairie View scoreless for the first four minutes, while scoring sixteen straight and building a gaudy 48 point lead. Not long after many of the 5,000 plus in attendance called it a night.
“UConn is a little different as far as other teams that we’ve seen in that they jump out early”, said Panther coach Dawn Brown, “We know they like to push the ball in transition, they get a lot of scoring transition-wise and that’s what they were able to do.”
Too little, too late
Ironically, Prairie View would actually outscore the Huskies 29-27 over the final sixteen minutes, but the outcome had long been decided.
Bria Hartley chipped in sixteen points, with Moriah Jefferson (14 pts) and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (13 pts, 8 rbs) rounding out the double figure scorers.
On the team effort, Hartley said, “I think we were just really in sync out there on the floor. We had good chemistry out there, knowing what the other person was going to do before they do it. You can just see how well we play together and looking at the stat sheet you can see that we all contributed and did a little to help each other out.”
The Huskies opened the 2012 tournament by dropping the Panthers 83-47 at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.
UConn tips off against St Joe's Tuesday night at 7 p.m.