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No Maya, no problem for No. 2 UConn

Storrs - It was something UConn worked on the day before in practice: What to do when Maya Moore's not in the game due to foul trouble or maybe isn't having a typically prolific day on offense.

"It's a real challenge to the rest of the players," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "If they're not careful they're going to be viewed as Maya and a bunch of players who play well when Maya plays well. I think it's important going forward."

Auriemma wasn't planning on needing the newfound game plan this soon. With 5 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the first half of Saturday's game against Big East Conference rival Notre Dame, Moore was on the bench, watching because she was ineffective and scoreless.

But that bunch of other players did pretty well for second-ranked UConn in a 78-57 women's basketball victory over No. 8 Notre Dame, a game the Huskies won by just three points last time.

Freshman Bria Hartley scored a career-high 29 points for the Huskies, hitting five 3-point field goals, freshman Stefanie Dolson had 15 points, five rebounds and four steals, and Tiffany Hayes had 13 points and seven rebounds as UConn overcame a quick 9-2 lead by Notre Dame before a sold-out Gampel Pavilion.

It also gave the Huskies a little bit of separation in the Big East standings, at least where Notre Dame is concerned. UConn is 26-1 overall, 13-0 in the league with three games remaining, while Notre Dame fell to 22-5, 11-2 in the Big East. No. 10 DePaul, which plays today against No. 18 Georgetown, is one game behind UConn at 11-1 in the league.

Moore, by the way, finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists on a day UConn likely laid claim to the No. 1 ranking in the nation again, as Texas Tech dropped top-ranked Baylor 56-45. The official Associated Press rankings will be released Monday.

"It's a great feeling," Moore said of watching her teammates carry the burden of keeping pace with a traditionally high-scoring Notre Dame team. "I see them do it at practice. I know we have talented offensive players. It makes me proud to know that if I don't have a lane, I can kick it out to Bria or I can find Stef. That's what we're going to need."

UConn defeated Notre Dame 79-76 on Jan. 8 at Notre Dame, coming from behind and getting a game-winning basket from Kelly Faris with 14 seconds left.

UConn's team defense was significantly better this time, holding the Fighting Irish's third-leading scorer, Devereaux Peters - who had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the game in South Bend - without a point and the Irish to 36.4 percent shooting.

In particular, Hartley went from scoring seven the last time to 29 and Dolson became a player Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said was not guardable for the Irish one-on-one Saturday.

"When Maya has almost human numbers, you hope that you can win a game like that," McGraw said.

"I was just taking advantage of what the defense gave me," said Hartley, who scored the most points by a UConn freshman since Moore scored 29 at LSU on Feb. 25, 2008. "If I had the open shot, I took it. If they came out on me, I made sure to drive by them."

Skylar Diggins scored 22 points for Notre Dame and Natalie Novosel had 18.

Becca Bruszewski started the game with back-to-back field goals for the Irish and Diggins added a pair of baskets as Notre Dame led 9-2. But UConn quickly established Dolson, at 6-foot-5, inside and Hartley hit a 3-pointer with 11:42 left in the half to give the Huskies their first lead at 17-16.

With Moore out of the game beginning at the 8:26 mark of the half, UConn got a left-handed hook shot from Dolson and a jump shot from Lorin Dixon with time running out on the shot clock and still led by five when Moore returned two and a half minutes later.

UConn led 37-29 at halftime and got back-to-back 3-pointers from Hayes and Moore to start the second half, pushing the lead to 14.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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