STORRS, Conn. – The 2013 spring semester may be starting Tuesday, but the No. 3 Connecticut women's basketball team has already had plenty of tests on the court.
Through their first 18 games this season, the Huskies have played five games against Top10 opponents. Prior to Monday night's game against No. 4 Duke, UConn had played Maryland, Penn State, Stanford and Notre Dame, winning three of those four games by an average of nearly 19 points per game. The only loss came against the Fighting Irish.
The Huskies aced another exam Monday at Gampel Pavilion, upending the Blue Devils 79-49, behind 18 points and 12 rebounds from Kelly Faris. A crowd of 9,671 watched as the nation’s last undefeated team finally lost. UConn has won six straight over Duke, by an average margin of 29.6 points.
The Huskies seem to find a way against Duke.
"If you were a part of what Kelly Faris did tonight, you just saw a performance that people are going to be talking about for a long time," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "There's been some great players playing in this building, there's been some legends playing in this building wearing that Connecticut uniform. I don't know that anybody ever represented that uniform and herself and her family the way that kid did tonight."
Faris, known for her tenacious style of basketball, believes hustling has a trickle-down effect.
"Honestly I think that's what really got us going today," Faris said. "It wasn't necessarily that we made some awesome move. . . . It was more the energy and how determined we were.”
Faris scored was 6-for-10 from the field. Seven of her 12 rebounds were on the offensive glass and she added six assists and two steals to her totals.
"Kelly Faris, she's my idol," said Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who had a game-high 21 points. "She is just one of those players where she's not necessarily going to say a whole lot, but she shows you how much she cares and how much she's willing to put out for our team."
At the half, UConn (17-1) held a slight 32-30 lead. Despite a 20-13 rebound advantage, the Huskies also had 12 first half turnovers, compared to only three for Duke (16-1). Stefanie Dolson and Breanna Stewart were held scoreless in the first half.
The slow start was enough for UConn assistant coach Chris Dailey to start a "no more turnovers" chant with the crowd at halftime. The crowd obliged and apparently the Huskies listened, only turning the ball over three times in the second half.
"We went out there, took care of the ball and followed (Faris') lead," said Mosqueda-Lewis.
In the second half, UConn outscored Duke 47-19. Stewart scored all 13 of her points in the half and Faris and Mosqueda-Lewis added 11 points each. The Huskies forced six turnovers in the half and blocked four shots as well.
"What happened in the second half was indescribable," Auriemma said.
As for the Blue Devils, the sentiment was not the same as coach Joanne McCallie described the game as "a tale of two halves."
Duke, who looked primed to upset UConn at home in the first half, but the Blue Devils struggled to maintain that level of play for the entire game. Duke turned the ball over 12 times and made eight shots from the floor in the second half. Alexis Jones finished with a career-high 14 points for the Blue Devils.
Kiah Stokes returned to action on Monday night after missing the game against Syracuse due to a reoccurring injury with her right shin. Stokes had two rebounds and two blocks in six minutes of playing time.
"After the Notre Dame [loss], we told ourselves from here on, we want to build," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We want to make sure we're getting better every step of the way and I think we've done that. The first half was a little shaky, but we came back and showed we have mental toughness and we can come back from something like that."
Baylor tickets going on sale
Single-game tickets to the UConn game against No. 1 Baylor game on Feb. 18 in Hartford, will go on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m. on UConnHuskies.com. Prior to Tuesday, Baylor tickets could only be purchased as part of a three-game mini-plan package. Approximately 3,500 tickets remain for the Baylor game. . . . Junior center Stefanie Dolson was named Big East Player of the Week on Monday. This is Dolson’s first conference Player of the Week accolade. She averaged 20.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in UConn’s 2-0 week. She scored a team-best 16 points in the team’s win over Louisville as she went 8-for-11 from the floor and also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Dolson registered her 11th career 20-plus performance against Syracuse as she notched a career-high 25 points, while adding seven rebounds and six assists. She became the 36th Husky to join the 1,000-point club in the win against Syracuse.