HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The hometown kid didn't disappoint.
Mel Thomas had 16 of her 21 points in the second half to lead
No. 7 Connecticut to a 92-71 victory over Big East newcomer
Cincinnati on THursday night.
The Bearcats shouldn't have been surprised.
Thomas grew up in Cincinnati and was recruited heavily by the
Bearcats. Her parents are Cincinnati alumni and her brother is a
student there. In fact, the Thomas' basement is decorated in
Bearcat red and black.
But she followed her heart to Connecticut and on Thursday scored
in double figures for the 11th time this season. Thomas did it with
her parents, brother and grandparents in the stands.
"I love it when they can come. They're all Cincinnati fans, so
it's pretty interesting," Thomas said.
Safe to say that on this night, the Thomas clan threw their
support behind the Huskies (14-2, 4-0). Thomas hit two 3-pointers
in a 20-2 run to open the second half. The Huskies made nine of
their first 13 shots in the run that helped UConn finally shake
free of the Bearcats (10-4, 0-3).
The second half was a completely different story as the Huskies
got their transition game untracked. Ketia Swanier directed the
up-tempo attack and finished with a career-high 10 assists. UConn
shot a season-high 61 percent from the field. It was the second
straight game UConn scored more than 90 points.
"When we came out after the second half we just had much more
energy," Thomas said. "Once one of us starts playing well, we all
feed off the others' energy."
The Bearcats, meanwhile, were held to one field goal in the
first 7 minutes of the second half and committed six turnovers in
UConn leading scorer Ann Strother was held to five points, 12
below her average, but her teammates more than picked up the slack.
Brittany Hunter had eight of her 13 points in the first 10 minutes
of the second half, mostly from close range and Renee Montgomery
finished with 12 points.
"I told them any time you are open and it's your shot, it's a
good shot," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I think my job is to
instill confidence in shooters. The only way to instill confidence
is to tell them every time you are open -- shoot it. If we get an
open look we are going to make the most of them."
Karen Twehues hit 4-of-5 3-pointers and led the Bearcats with 14
points, while Treasure Humphries added 13.
The lead changed a dozen times in the closely contested first
half that closed with a string of six 3-pointers. Cincinnati
trailed by as many as six in the period until Twehues closed the
gap in a hurry with three straight 3s. The Huskies answered with
consecutive 3s from Montgomery and Thomas.
When Kahla Roudebush hit the fourth straight 3 for the Bearcats
with 1:52 left, Cincinnati had a 43-40 lead.
The Huskies countered with a layup from Montgomery and two free
throws from Hunter and held on for a 44-43 halftime lead. It was
the most points scored by a UConn opponent in the first half this
season. The Bearcats scored 17 points off UConn turnovers in the
Thomas helped turn things around quickly for UConn and her
hometown team had few answers.
"We couldn't get matched up on her quick enough before she put
too many [3s] down," Cincinnati coach Laurie Pirtle said. "It
just gave them a real energy level."