7:00 PM ET, December 19, 2005
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Mel Thomas doesn't pass up too many open looks these days and it's paying off for Connecticut.The sophomore guard hit 5-of-12 3-pointers and tied her career high with 23 points to lead the eighth-ranked Huskies to an 81-54 win over Holy Cross on Monday night."Mel knows `If I'm open I have to shoot it," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "A bad shot still helps us. We can rebound it and put it back. The good thing about Mel is right now she is in the mode of catch and shoot."Thomas leads the Huskies with 23 3-pointers on the season and gives UConn another outside threat to complement wing Ann Strother, who finished with 16 points, including a pair of 3s on Monday. Strother also had a team-high seven assists."Anytime you can add somebody who knocks down wide open shots like that and looks to score and looks to be aggressive, it just adds opportunities for all of us," Strother said.Kaitlin Foley led Holy Cross (3-6) with 12 points and six rebounds. The Crusaders, a perennial power in the Patriot League, have lost the last 13 straight to UConn."I just came in knowing that I need to contribute," Thomas said. "I didn't do anything differently. I came off the screens ... and I just came off ready to shoot."As tough as they were outside, the Huskies were just as solid inside. Barbara Turner grabbed 10 rebounds and had 14 points, many coming off offensive rebounds.The Huskies scored the first 10 points of the game, fueled by stifling defense and never trailed. The Crusaders got within a point twice in the first half.Foley's layup for Holy Cross with 9:52 cut the lead to 18-17, but UConn countered right away with an 8-0 run and Strother led the charge. She had six points, a steal, an assist and a block in the spurt. The Huskies closed out the period with a 14-3 run and led 40-23 at the break.Brittany Kiel drained a 3-pointer for Holy Cross to open the second prompting UConn coach Geno Auriemma to call a quick timeout. The Huskies responded with a 7-0 run that included a 3 from Thomas and the rout was on. Auriemma emptied his bench and all 11 players scored. The Huskies led by as many as 30 points down the stretch."We can take some positives out but we just had too many lapses on defense," Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons said. "We let Thomas get open. You just can't have that. We can have that in the Patriot League but we can't have that against a team like this."Ketia Swanier had four of UConn's 15 steals as the Huskies scored 25 points off Holy Cross turnovers. Turner anchored a post that outrebounded the Crusaders 48-37. Teammate Willnett Crockett grabbed nine boards.The Huskies were without Charde Houston for the second straight game because of a foot injury. Houston was averaging just under 11 points a game when she went out. The Crusaders' star guard Laura Aloisi also was sidelined with a foot injury."Playing without Charde and putting 81 points on the board is pretty good," Auriemma said. "We had long stretches where we flowed pretty well. The way we started the game I thought it was like the old days."
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