Huskies stay hot

Breanna Stewart of UConn puts up a shot in the first half of Wednesday’s game against Central Florida at the XL Center in Hartford. Stewart scored the 1,000th point of her career on the shot and finished with 23 points as UConn won 83-35.

Hartford - Yes, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, he has changed the precision with which he coaches in the wake of his team's depleted roster.

He's even more intense at times.

"You become almost more demanding in some areas," said Auriemma, asked if he was prone to, say, taking his foot off the gas pedal from time to time. "You have to be even smarter and more precise. Now they just have to learn and be smart. You're more demanding about certain things, but not everything."

Auriemma's top-ranked UConn women's basketball team, down to seven scholarship players without All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis - who is expected to miss 2-5 weeks with mononucleosis - showed no signs of slowing in Wednesday's 83-35 victory over Central Florida before 9,815 fans at the XL Center.

In fact, the Huskies (27-0, 14-0 American Athletic Conference) had a pair of players reach significant historical milestones in the final game of the season in Hartford.

Senior guard Bria Hartley joined program all-timers Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore as the only UConn players to reach 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists, needing just three rebounds entering the game and finishing with four.

Sophomore forward Breanna Stewart, entering the game just two points shy of becoming the 39th member of the Huskies' 1,000-point club, finished with a game-high 23, adding 13 rebounds and tying a career high with seven blocks.

UConn added 17 points and 10 rebounds from freshman Saniya Chong, who joined the starting lineup recently to replace Mosqueda-Lewis.

"I don't think there's many," said Hartley, asked what differences there are in the team dynamics with a short bench. "Maybe for the coaches with subbing. For us it's just the same; go out and play."

Hartley finished with 20 points. Stefanie Dolson added 10.

Auriemma said Hartley is his wife Kathy's favorite player and gives his team the same consistency as veteran captain Derek Jeter provides the Yankees.

"You look at Bria and it's hard to pick out real, real, real highs because she's been so consistent," Auriemma said. "She's had an All-American season and I don't think anyone on our coaching staff or team were surprised."

Hartley, who has 1,778 career points, finished with four 3-pointers against Central Florida, giving her at least 50 3s in three of her four seasons.

"I don't know if I came here and thought I would be in that category," Hartley said of Taurasi and Moore. "You come to Connecticut and you want to set the standards really high. Coach always says to dream really big."

Stewart reached the 1,000-point mark on an offensive rebound and ensuing bank shot from the right side 52 seconds into the game.

UConn led 46-20 at halftime and outscored the Knights 22-2 over the first 11:39 of the second half, making it 68-22.

Still, Auriemma was annoyed with a few of his team's shot selections. The Huskies were 2-for-9 from 3-point range in the first half, 5-for-18 overall. In addition, Dolson picked up her third foul before halftime.

"We talked at halftime about I want to be the kind of team that has some balance," Auriemma said. "I thought we were kind of transition and jump shots, transition and jump shots. We did a much better job (after that)."

Auriemma, however, said himself that he played point guard Moriah Jefferson just 16 minutes to give the sophomore a rest, using Brianna Banks, back from injury, 25 minutes.

"They've been going since Sept. 10. That's a long time," he said.

Said Auriemma with a laugh of needing to be more lenient with his players' mistakes throughout the course of a game without anyone else to turn to: "I would bury myself under the snow in my yard if I coached like this 25 years ago."

Zykira Lewis scored 11 points to lead Central Florida (10-16, 3-12).

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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