No. 7 UConn tops No. 9 Purdue in battle of unbeatens

STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut faced its first test of the season and passed.

Renee Montgomery matched her career high with 26 points and No. 7 Connecticut beat ninth-ranked Purdue 66-55 on Thursday night.

"We knew Purdue was going to be a tough team and we were going to have to play every possession," said Connecticut guard Ketia Swanier. "They're a top 10 team in the nation so of course it's a lot different from the teams we played earlier this season."

Montgomery had 16 points in the first half to help UConn build a 15-point halftime lead. With the game tied at 18, UConn (4-0) went on a 17-2 run to close the half. Montgomery had 10 points during the spurt, drawing the crowd to its feet with an acrobatic three-point play off a Mel Thomas steal.

"She keyed the run," Montgomery said of Thomas. "She had a couple of key steals that got us some easy fast break points and then from there, everyone kept it going and kept playing hard and with a lot of emotion."

Montgomery capped the run with a 3-pointer and two free throws.

"That last 11 minutes was UConn basketball," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We made some really great plays."

Purdue (6-1), which was averaging 73.7 points coming into the game, scored the first five points of the second half to close within 10, but Montgomery answered with a 3-pointer.

The Huskies extended the lead back up to 50-35 midway through the second half on Charde Houston's layup before Purdue started to chip away.

The Boilermakers used a 13-3 run to close within 53-48 on Erin Lawless' 3-pointer with 6:10 left, but they could get no closer. The Huskies scored the next five points on a layup by Houston and a 3-pointer by Mel Thomas.

Lawless scored 20 points to lead the Boilermakers, who struggled from the field, shooting 34 percent. Jodi Howell added 11 points and Lindsay Wisdom-Hyalton had 10 points.

Leading scorer Katie Gearlds, who was averaging 20.0 points, had a miserable shooting night. She was 2-for-18, including 0-for-9 from behind the arc. Despite getting good looks at the basket, she couldn't get her shots to drop.

"Basketball is a very humbling game," Gearlds said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. I thought I had great looks, great great looks."

Houston finished with nine points, seven rebounds, five assists, four blocks and four steals.

Montgomery matched the 26 points she scored against Louisville last season.

"She just flat out played awesome tonight," first-year Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "When you're hot, you're hot."

Connecticut unveiled a pair of banners before the game honoring Auriemma for his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

"We didn't play our 'A' game, but we won," Auriemma said.

The teams split their only two previous meetings, with Connecticut winning in the East Regional Final of the 2003 NCAA tournament.