9:00 PM ET, December 23, 2004
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) -- Nobody did a better job making sure Ann Strother Night went well than Ann Strother herself.The UConn guard ensured a successful homecoming Thursday night, scoring 20 points to help the eighth-ranked Huskies avoid their first losing streak in 12 seasons with a 63-44 win over Colorado State."It felt like a game in my own arena," said Strother, who had plenty of friends and family on hand for the game.Strother, the best player in Colorado when she went to high school 80 miles down the road near Denver, was the best player in this game, as well. She made four 3-pointers early to keep the Huskies (5-2) ahead while they were struggling on offense and was key in a late defensive clampdown that turned a close game into a runaway."We played together in the second-half run," Strother said. "We were strong on defense and that kept us going."After Vanessa Espinoza made a basket to pull the Rams (6-4) within 32-30 early in the second half, Connecticut held CSU to two field goals over the next 16 minutes to extend its lead to as many as 23 points.Espinoza and Melissa Dennett led Colorado State with 11 points each. The Rams only shot 32 percent and went just 1-for-15 from 3-point range."We scored 44 points," CSU coach Chris Denker said. "You better play damn good defense when you score 44 or you won't win."Barbara Turner had 12 points, and Jessica Moore had 10 points and eight rebounds to help the Huskies avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since 1992-93. The three-time defending national champs were coming off a 61-50 loss at Arizona State on Tuesday that marked the earliest they'd been beaten twice since that same 92-93 season."We have struggled," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It has been as big a struggle as anytime I've been at Connecticut. You walk into an arena, and I never worry how we are going to guard somebody. But when you don't know where your points are coming from, it's very deflating and it sucks the life out of your team."That was pretty much the case for the first 25 minutes of this game. Besides Strother, nobody was crisp on offense. Meanwhile, CSU's tall post players were keeping things relatively even inside on the other end.Strother hit a pair of jumpers early in the second half to start a 16-3 run for the Huskies and they never looked back. It marked a successful close to a difficult two days during which UConn did a lot of soul searching."We used it to figure out what we needed to do to get back our swagger," Strother said. "Tonight, we got a piece back."Auriemma often schedules games in his players' hometowns as something of a favor to them when they choose the Huskies.Strother got a nice hand from the crowd of 7,048 when she was introduced, an ovation befitting of Colorado's two-time Ms. Basketball who led her school, Highlands Ranch, to a pair of state titles."I was happy for Ann," Auriemma said. "I knew she wanted to play well here. It was good to see her play the way she did."
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