Cincinnati - UConn coach Geno Auriemma stressed to his team the last few days that the top-ranked Huskies needed to focus on defense.
Connecticut put on a defensive clinic against Cincinnati on Saturday, beating the Bearcats 86-29. UConn forced 24 turnovers, and Cincinnati's 29 points were the fewest the Huskies have allowed all season.
"Coach just emphasized the past three days that we need to play better defense and keep people in front of us and I think we took that to heart today," said Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who led UConn with 17 points. "We clogged up the lane, we took into account the scouting report Coach gave us on who were shooters and who weren't shooters and we implemented it into the game."
During an early 22-0 run, Connecticut held Cincinnati (9-12, 2-8) scoreless for 11 minutes and 22 seconds. In that span, the Bearcats missed 11 shots and turned the ball over nine times. The Bearcats broke their scoreless streak with 45 seconds left in the half as Connecticut headed into halftime up 41-11. Cincinnati ended the first half with just five field goals and 15 turnovers in their lowest-scoring half of the season.
"UConn is UConn - they're an unbelievable defensive team, they're going to pressure you, you're going to make you play fast, they're going to trap you, and that's not the first time we've had trouble playing against them," Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott said.
Bria Hartley also scored 17 points and had a career-high six steals for the Huskies (23-0, 10-0 American Athletic Conference), who jumped out to a 41-11 halftime lead and never looked back. UConn was held to 67 points in the first meeting between the teams back on Dec. 29.
"I think our approach was a lot different from last time," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We didn't come out like, "All right, we're playing Cincinnati, or, "Let's get the game over with.' We came out with intensity, we had a purpose, we wanted to make sure we came out strong and we finished the game that way."
Cincinnati, missing leading scorer Dayeesha Hollins for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury, took a 5-3 lead two minutes into the game before Connecticut took over for good with a 22-0 run.