Greene's 14 points, career-best 16 rebounds lead UConn

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Geno Auriemma figured Connecticut would have to play ugly to win Friday night.

After all, his Huskies were playing Hartford, coached by his former UConn All-American Jennifer Rizzotti, a scrappy, tenacious point guard.

The fifth-ranked Huskies stumbled and fumbled their way through most of the first half, but they rebounded with crisp uptempo play and pressure defense in the second half for a 62-36 win over the Hawks. They also got their Hall of Fame coach win No. 599.

"Sometime in a game like that the only thing that's going to turn it around is putting on some sort of pressure," said Auriemma, who will go for win No. 600 on Sunday against Sacred Heart. "The only way you can get into pressure is to make regular shots. When we started doing that, things started to go the way we wanted them to go."

Kalana Greene led the way Friday night with 14 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and three steals.

Renee Montgomery finished with 16 points, and freshman forward Kaili McLaren dominated inside with six blocks for UConn (10-0). McLaren, a 6-foot-2 presence in the post, had a hand in changing many shots and keeping rebounds alive and her team in a closely contested first half.

Lisa Etienne led Hartford (7-6) with 12 points.

Rizzotti, in her eighth year as Hartford's head coach, is 0-3 against her mentor. It was the second ranked opponent of the season for the Hawks, who upset then-No. 22 Brigham Young 60-43 on Dec. 2.

"Tonight was another opportunity for us to work on our basketball game and find our identity as a basketball program," Rizzotti said. "For a good stretch tonight there was a pretty good team out there that I would be happy to spend the rest of the season with."

The Hawks led for most of the first period, taking advantage of nine UConn turnovers and scoring their first six points off UConn miscues. The Huskies struggled through 30 percent shooting in the period and on two occasions went more than 4 minutes between field goals.

UConn used pressure defense to get its transition game in gear with just over 2 minutes to play and scored the final nine points of the half.

"When we started clicking, it started to get fun. Everything became natural," McLaren said.

Montgomery had five points in the spurt, and McLaren had a hand in the final three buckets. She blocked a shot to kick off a breakaway, deflected an offensive rebound to her teammates and scored on a putback to give UConn a 26-18 lead at the break. The 26 points was a season low for a half for UConn.

The Huskies opened the second half with a 9-0 run to take control and shot 51 percent the rest of the way.

"We needed a lift. I think defensively is where it all came from," Greene said. "We got a lot of tips that created steals, created turnovers, rebounds and fast-break opportunities. We played the game the way we like to play."

McLaren came in on relief for starting UConn center Tina Charles, who played just 6 minutes in the first half. A sore shoulder kept her sidelined the rest of the game. She made the most of her brief appearance, finishing with seven rebounds and four points. McLaren finished with six points and two steals. Charde Houston also had seven rebounds for UConn, which finished with a 53-28 edge on the boards.

With his next win, Auriemma would become the 17th coach in Division I history to reach 600 career victories, and he would be the fastest to do so, according to UConn sports information officials. Tennessee coach Pat Summitt reached the 600 mark in 734 games over 23 seasons. Auriemma has coached 715 games in his 22 seasons at UConn, earning five NCAA titles with two unbeaten seasons along the way.

"In terms of number of wins, I've never thought about it that way. I always thought about where we needed to be to keep the process moving," Auriemma said.