2:00 PM ET, November 23, 2003
STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Wide-open from 3-point range, Diana Taurasi glanced at the basket and then passed to a teammate.There was a lot of that sharing going on Sunday as No. 1 Connecticut routed Western Michigan 95-46 in its season opener.Taurasi had seven of UConn's 34 assists and finished with 26 points and eight boards."She's the best player because she makes everybody a better player than they are," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She can score whenever she wants and she can pass the ball as easily as anybody I've ever been around."Taurasi, last year's national player of the year, had already hit 5-of-6 from beyond the arc when she opted to find an open teammate.It was contagious.Sophomores Barbara Turner and Nicole Wolff had career highs of seven and six boards, respectively.The two-time defending national champs have everyone back from last year's title team and found each other with ease against the Broncos (0-2)."The purpose was to go out there and play well and then win the game," Taurasi said. "Whenever you play with a group of people for a year, you learn so much about each other on the court. Now we're benefiting from it."Taurasi scored 11 points in the first 4½ minutes. She was 10-for-11 from the field.The Broncos, the 2003 Mid-American Conference champs, were overmatched inside and outside and couldn't contend with UConn's crisp passing."I think you have to be impressed with the way they passed the ball," Broncos coach Ron Stewart said. "We were overwhelmed and couldn't make a lot of plays."The Huskies had 17 assists on their first 17 baskets and built a 53-21 lead at the half, shooting 70 percent. UConn led by 55 points in the second half.Taurasi found teammates with no-look passes and blew by defenders for off-balance scoops and reverse layups. The senior needs 565 points to break the school's career scoring mark of 2,178 points, set by Nykesha Sales in 1995-98.UConn outscored Western Michigan 54-6 in the paint behind center Jessica Moore's 18 points."Whenever the ball's moving around, when everybody's getting their hands on it, it's a great game," Moore said.Ashley Battle added 11 points for UConn. She and Strother combined for six of UConn's 14 steals.Maria Jilian led the Broncos with eight points.The four-time national champion Huskies unveiled their 2003 NCAA title banner before the game, in front of the sellout crowd at Gampel Pavilion. Taurasi, a senior, had a role in two of those banners.She got her 26 points in 28 minutes, staying in long enough to direct Auriemma's subs."You hate to leave her in there, but she was with four guys that don't play a lot," he said. "This is it for her and I don't want to shortchange her. I want her to enjoy playing, because after she leaves, the party's over for her -- and for us, maybe, too."
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