Top-ranked UConn wins 62nd straight
STORRS, CONN. >> Two-time national player of the year Breanna Stewart hasn't come off the bench since she was a freshman at UConn.
But she and stars Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck didn't start Wednesday in an effort to give the Huskies reserves some meaningful minutes.
The big three came in when the game was tied at 15 and went on to lead top-ranked UConn to an 88-34 rout of Cincinnati and a 62nd consecutive win.
Stewart finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists in just 21 minutes. Georgetown transfer Natalie Butler started at center and had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Jefferson and freshman Napheesa Collier each finished with 11 points. Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson had 10 points and Tuck, who played just 11 minutes, added eight points and six rebounds.
"There's obviously a lot of learning that went on today," Stewart said. "A lot of it was good...realizing that in order to do really well, we need everyone to contribute."
Ana Owens and Bianca Quisenberry each had nine points for Cincinnati (7-18, 3-11 American Athletic). The Bearcats, who lost by 62 points to the Huskies earlier in the season, have dropped five straight.
Cincinnati opened the scoring with a 3-pointer from Quisenberry and the Bearcats later made five straight baskets to tie the Huskies before UConn's big three made their first appearance with 3:26 left in the first quarter.
Auriemma said it was good to show his reserves what it was like to play in a close game.
"When you get into a game and you're up by 30, it doesn't matter if you play good defense, in their minds," Auriemma said. "But, when it's 15-15, it matters. You have to insert yourself. You have to impose yourself on the game."
The Bearcats scored just 19 more points the rest of the way.
A 3-pointer by Courtney Ekmark gave the Huskies a 25-19 lead after the first 10 minutes.
The Huskies scored 18 of the final 22 points of the half and led 45-25 at the break.
UConn went with its normal starting lineup in the second half and scored the first 20 points of the third quarter to put the game away.
The Huskies outscored Cincinnati 28-5 in the third, and 15-4 in the final quarter.
"I thought the first quarter, we were only down about six or seven, but then the big guns came in and obviously they wanted to prove to him that they deserved to start," said Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott, a former UConn player and assistant coach. "I thought they came in and were really aggressive and we didn't have an answer for them."
UConn's unusual bench outscored Cincinnati's 46-4. That tied a season high for bench points that was set against Cincinnati in the teams' first meeting, a 107-45 Husky victory in Ohio on Dec. 30.
UConn outrebounded Cincinnati 46-24 and held the Bearcats to 28.6 percent shooting. Cincinnati made just 3 of 34 shots (12.5 percent) in the second half.
The Huskies (25-0, 14-0) have now reached 25 wins in 23 straight seasons. The last time they didn't, Elliott was a freshman.
"He should have been starting me that whole season, we would have got that 25," she joked.
Cincinnati: Elliott is now 0-9 against her former team. She watched as Stewart tied her for fifth place on UConn's all-time rebounding list with 1,054. "I told my players too, and they were all excited she didn't break it," Elliott said. "So, small victories, you take 'em whenever you can get 'em."
UConn: UConn is auctioning off the special pink-highlighted uniforms that players wore during the game to benefit the "Play4Kay" breast cancer charity. Breanna Stewart's No. 30 was going for $809 at game time. Someone had bid $309 for Geno Auriemma's pink tie. The auction site, http://uconnhuskies.cstvauctions.com/gallery.cfm, is taking bids until Friday.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats play at Houston on Saturday.
UConn: The Huskies visit East Carolina on Saturday.