UConn women dominate North Carolina 86-35
Storrs - There were times when UConn first started its series against North Carolina that the Huskies couldn't keep up. The Tar Heels won three straight from 2004-07 to go to 5-2 against UConn.
Then came No. 3 UConn's 86-35 victory in Monday's nationally-televised Martin Luther King Day matchup, the worst loss and the fewest number of points in the storied history of the University of North Carolina women's basketball program.
"I apologize for us not being able to play better," said North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, whose 24th-ranked team has been riddled with more injuries than she can remember. "We're better than what we showed out there tonight, but UConn's great."
"They caught us on a really, really good night," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I'm not sure their best game would have been good enough tonight."
North Carolina has always enjoyed playing uptempo, a game that UConn has looked forward to in recent seasons. While the Huskies kicked it into a more entertaining gear than they could Saturday against methodical Villanova, even North Carolina was overwhelmed, finishing with 26 turnovers and four assists.
Meanwhile, UConn got six players in double figures, including a game-high 17 points from sophomore Bria Hartley to go with eight assists and three steals.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 15 points, despite going 3-for-13 from 3-point range, Tiffany Hayes had 13 points and seven rebounds, freshman Kiah Stokes 11 points and 11 rebounds in 14 minutes for the first double-double of her career and Stefanie Dolson and Caroline Doty 10 points each.
The most convincing defeat for North Carolina previously, 49 points, came against Virginia on Feb. 15, 1990 (95-46). The Tar Heels' lowest offensive output to date was 44.
"There were some times we played them I thought they were way bigger, way more athletic and they had a lot more offensive players," Auriemma said. "The way the game is right now, you have to have offensive players on the floor. That's one of the things we've been able to do all these years is score."
UConn (15-2) led 11-6 in the first half when it went on a 15-point run that included a 3-pointer by Mosqueda-Lewis and a three-point play by Hayes. It was 51-16 at halftime. It was 66-19 after Hartley converted a 3-pointer and scored at the front end of a break with 13:44 to play and it was 71-21 when Kelly Faris fed Doty on the break and Doty finished with a little finesse, generating one of the largest ovations of the night from the crowd of 9,221 at Gampel Pavilion.
"They were really rocking and rolling," Hatchell said. "I don't think we quit. But we were frustrated."
North Carolina (12-5) has lost several members of its lineup to injuries this season. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt missed the first 13 games due to offseason shoulder surgery. Laura Bromfield left the Maryland game on Jan. 8 after being scratched in the eye and now wears protective goggles. Waltiea Rolle gave birth to a daughter on Nov. 8 and rejoined the team for the second semester.
Still, the Tar Heels beat No. 11 Miami on Jan. 2, topped Virginia in double overtime on Jan. 5 and lost in overtime to No. 8 Maryland on Jan. 8, with Maryland needing a basket at the buzzer to force the overtime.
"Those teams probably know each other really well," Auriemma said of the Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. "They know all of the little things they like to do. You step outside the conference and you're playing us, it's different than what they're used to."
"We don't base our win off the score, but it's still a little bit surprising for a program like that and a team like that," Faris said, reacting to UConn's margin of victory. "You don't expect, going into a game where you are going to play UNC, for there to be a gap in the score like that."
North Carolina leading scorer Chay Shegog, who was averaging 17.4 points, was limited to four points on 2-for-12 shooting.