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UConn's simply too good in opener

By Vickie Fulkerson

Publication: The Day

Published November 15. 2009 4:00AM

Storrs - Maya Moore called the game "exciting," which isn't the adjective you normally use to describe a 70-point blowout.

Last time Moore and the UConn women's basketball team played before Saturday, however, was April 7 in St. Louis, winning the national championship.

Perhaps it was the excitement from that game which carried over, in addition to the nervous energy of two players competing in their first game for the top-ranked program, in addition to the return of sophomore Caroline Doty, in addition to the unveiling of the national championship banner … and, well, to this team that generated excitement.

UConn opened the 2009-10 season with a 105-35 victory over Northeastern University before 8,382 fans at Gampel Pavilion, the Huskies' 40th straight win.

"Basketball's supposed to be a fun game to play," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's been since April since we've really played. Their memories of the game were all great. They're all anxious, I think, to kind of get started again, to see where it goes, you know?

"We don't know where it's going to end, but we know where it started. And that's today."

Tina Charles who competed as a member of the U.S. National Team this summer, started the season with 26 points and 13 rebounds in 18 minutes against Northeastern.

Moore had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, Tiffany Hayes had 14 points and five assists, Kalana Greene had 13 points and four steals, Doty had 10 points and six assists and Meghan Gardler 10 points for UConn, giving the Huskies six players in double figures. Doty had last season cut short by a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.

Stonington's Heather Buck, in her first career game after red-shirting last year, played 21 minutes and had four points, 12 rebounds, a steal and made an appearance in the interview room, showing some fire on the court after being under heat from Auriemma to produce. Freshman Kelly Faris had six points and five rebounds in her debut.

UConn played without Lorin Dixon, out with a sore hamstring, and Kaili McLaren, who was wearing a protective boot on her right foot after stepping on someone's foot during Friday's practice.

The Huskies started the game on a 28-0 run, which was capped by the five starters all scoring in succession, and set a program record with 69 points in the first half, when it was 69-15.

"We did a great job moving the ball around and Tina was dominant inside, which sparked us," Moore said.

Charles, who was 11-for-17 shooting and picked up her 1,000th career rebound with her fifth of the game, said seeing the national championship banner, emblazoned with St. Louis's logo bearing the Gateway Arch, was a stirring moment.

"I had a lot of emotions," Charles said. "This team, with everything we went through last year, it symbolized how our team came together and was able to pull off our 39-0 record."

Charles (1,008) became just the third player in UConn history with 1,000 rebounds, trailing only Rebecca Lobo (1,268) and Jamelle Elliott (1,054).

Greene, a fifth-year senior who ended last season with 999 points, became the 33rd player in program history to eclipse 1,000 points when she slashed past her defender for a layup 1 minute, 50 seconds in.

UConn next plays at No. 12 Texas on Tuesday in San Antonio, home of this year's Final Four.

"I think it's every coach's wish that the ball moves and people get involved and it's five-on-five instead of one-on-one," Auriemma said. "For us to start out the game like that … it was pretty smooth, I think even more than I would have expected.

"Tuesday, around 7-7:30 Central Time, the fun could be sucked out of that balloon in a minute. But there's a glimpse today of what it could be like."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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