Game Notes: UConn at DePaul
The Huskies take down the Blue Demons with ease.
by Quinn Peterson
Coming into the season, one would have expected the DePaul-UConn matchup to make for one marquee battles Big East play. Three months later, an injury-depleted No. 21 Blue Demons roster instead made the event a one-sided affair as the No. 3 Huskies rolled through Chicago, leaving town with an easy 88-44 victory in tow.
Despite positive, energetic, near-capacity crowd at DePaul’s McGrath-Phillips Arena, the Huskies wasted no time getting after it and jumped out to an 11-0 lead. Katherine Harry scored DePaul’s first basket with 16:48 to play in the first half to cut the deficit to nine, but that’s as close as it would get for the rest of the night.
“Before the game we all talked about coming out with a lot of energy, being ready to play, especially a Big East road game,” said UConn sophomore guard Bria Hartley. “Those are things you have to win, so we came out and we jumped on them early. We were able to hit a lot of shots and our transition really worked for us.”
Some sharp shooting by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is what ultimtaely put things out of reach. The freshman off-guard rang off 18 points in the first 20 minutes, including four 3′s, to lead the way offensively despite coming off the bench.
“It’s difficult to contain the entire ballclub in transition,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. “They do a great job of getting the ball up the floor. You can’t give her a second because not only is she a great shooter, but she needs no time, and if you try to help off her even a little bit, she’s gonna knock it down.”
She had plenty of help, to be sure.
“I think the fact that we have so many threats on our team helps get everybody open,” Lewis said after the game. “We got Tiffany who can drive whenever she wants, she can hit the three, Bria’s a driver and a shooter, we got Stef [Dolson] inside, so we have a lot of options.
The Huskies were sharp at both ends of the floor, in fact. Defensively, they were able to cripple the already-wounded Blue Demons (Just eight players were in uniform; Pre-season All-American Keisha Hampton was among the injured), holding them to 26 percent shooting in the first half.
UConn held a 53-23 halftime lead, and led by as many as 45 on the day. By early-second half, with the game clearly out of reach, Bruno said the Blue Demons had already shifted their sights toward Tuesday’s game against Rutgers. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma spent most of the half quiet and seated, as his coaching was no longer necessary.
“I could tell today at shoot-around that today was gonna be good and that’s important at the end of a long week,” said Auriemma. “After the trip we had yesterday, they showed up at shoot-around today and they were really, really sharp. They were really into it and it carried over.”
Keying in on DePaul guard Anna Martin, and flustering freshman PG Brittany Hrynko, proved to be critical.
“Our defense always creates our offense,” said Hartley. “We work so hard in practice on keeping our hands in the passing lanes, tipping passes, someone else getting a steal then going down and scoring.”
“Because they’re such a well-oiled marching offensively machine, they never get credit for their defense,” said Bruno with the utmost praise for Auriemma’s crew. “They are really a good defensive basketball team. I was totally concerned about what was gonna happen on our offensive side of the ball. They do a good job of identifying your strengths and taking that from you.
Auriemma respectfully acknowledged the role that DePaul’s lack of firepower played a significant role in their struggles, as well, especially the effect it had on Martin.
“That’s not the same DePaul team that started the season,” said Auriemaa. “Offense is hard to come by now since Keisha [Hampton] got hurt, you know, so a lot of it’s [defensive pressure] directed towards Anna [Martin]. And any time that’s the case, it’s difficult. We’ve got a couple kids on our team that take their defensive assignments very seriously, and they knew they were going up against a very good player today. She had some open looks, too, that she didn’t make.”
Martin finished the day 0-for-6 with zero points. Hrynko had 18 points as the lone Blue Demon in double figures, but coupled that with nine turnovers. She played fearless, but her inexperience showed.
“You can see the talent,” said Bruno of his freshman point guard who’s been forced to play more than expected. “She’s still learning how to play the position. She’s learning how to play the next level. You’ve gotta live with some turnover from your players but you can’t live with nine. It’s gonna be a process with Brit and she’s already improved so much. She’s been thrust into playing a lot so it’s gonna be good for her in the future.”
The Huskies, on the other hand, had plenty of scoring to go around. Mosqueda-Lewis had a game-high 25 points, while Tiffany Hayes had 14, and Stefanite Dolson and Hartley had 10 each. They shot just under 55 percent on the day, and forced 23 turnovers which they converted into 33 points. UConn was truly clicking on all cylinders and handled it like business as usual.
The Huskies will head to Syracuse Wednesday and look to keep things rolling, while the Blue Demons travel to New Jersey and try to find their footing against Rutgers.
There was at least one bright spot for Bruno, who before the game was introduced as a member of Auriemma’s staff for the 2012 U.S. National Women’s team.