5:00 PM ET, January 17, 2005
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut has its confidence back and a freshman to thank for it.Charde Houston has been on an offensive tear the last four games and finished with a career-high 25 points as UConn (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) posted a 73-57 win over Texas (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) on Monday. She was averaging just over 19 points a game in the three games leading up to the game.Suddenly UConn's struggles earlier this season seem like a distant memory. A blend of power and speed, the 6-foot-1 Houston was nearly unstoppable in the lane against the slumping Longhorns (9-6), who have lost three of their last four."She's made the game easy for us now," UConn coach Geno Auriemma. "It's made everybody relax. We're not just relying on launching jump shots."Houston's offense has opened up opportunities for her teammates. Ann Strother, the Huskies' 3-point specialist, scored a season-high 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Jessica Moore added 15 for UConn (11-4).The Huskies had been searching all season for that go-to player since losing former All-American Diana Taurasi and it showed. They lost both home and away and dropped from the Top 10 for the first time in 11 years."Even though Charde's been going off, which is awesome, everybody else is contributing," Moore said. "I think everyone's confidence level is just rising up higher and higher."The Huskies played smothering defense and dominated inside, holding Texas to 34 percent shooting. The Longhorns continue to struggle away from Austin, losing to their fourth ranked opponent on the road.It was the teams' first regular-season meeting, and the Longhorns had to contend not only with Houston but with the hostile sellout crowd of 16,294 in the Hartford Civic Center."We just can't seem to show the kind of consistency on either end of the floor that we need right now to play with a really good team like UConn is," Texas coach Jody Conradt said.Conradt had recruited Houston, the California girls all-time leading scorer, and knew what was in store."We recruited her for obvious reasons," Conradt said.Houston hit her first six shots of the second half to break the game open. UConn quickly turned a seven-point halftime lead into a rout with 9-of-9 shooting in the first 10 minutes, largely because of Houston's play. She trotted off for a breather with 10:14 to play in the game to a roaring ovation and a 57-40 UConn lead."The fans are great here," Houston said. "Just chanting your name and chanting the team's name and being involved with the game from beginning to end."The picture of confidence on the floor, Houston acknowledged being "scared to death" of the college game before the preseason."I read about different freshmen being the leading scorers on their team and I used to just wonder to myself how do they do that and what does it take," she said. "Right now I'm starting to figure it out."The Huskies led by as many as 20 down the stretch, and their solid defense gave the Longhorns little chance of catching up. Houston had three of UConn's six blocks.Rebounding was even at 34, but UConn outscored the Longhorns in the paint, 42-20.Nina Norman led the Longhorns with 13 points and Heather Schreiber had 12. Tiffany Jackson, the Longhorns' scoring leader, had 11 before fouling out late in the game.The game also marked the return of UConn post player Barbara Turner, who sat out the previous four games with a foot injury. Turner had been averaging a team-high 13.4 points before the injury. She saw limited action and scored just two points in 14 minutes.The Huskies now head into the meat of the Big East season with a head of steam, winning five of their last six games that includes two victories over ranked opponents."From where we were to where we are I think it's been unbelievable progress," Auriemma said. "I don't think we're anywhere near where we want to be but we're certainly a lot closer than where we were three weeks ago."
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