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Auriemma gets 600th win as UConn tops Sacred Heart

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut made sure coach Geno Auriemma reached 600 wins faster than any coach in women's Division I history on Sunday, routing Sacred Heart 82-40.

The fifth-ranked Huskies (11-0) rallied behind double-doubles from freshman post players Tina Charles (15 points and 11 rebounds) and Kaili McLaren (14 points, 15 rebounds) for their 192nd consecutive win at home against unranked teams.

Auriemma, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in September, is the 17th women's coach to reach the 600-win milestone. He did it in 716 games over 22 seasons, earning five NCAA titles and finishing unbeaten twice along the way.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who has a record 925 wins, reached the 600 mark in 734 games over 23 seasons.

Auriemma credited the 1994 team that went 30-3 and included
Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer Rizzotti, paving the way for his first
NCAA title in 1995 after a 35-0 season. That helped inspire players
like Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi to play for the Huskies, who went
on to win a total of five national titles.

"It's kind of like a wave," Auriemma said. "It just keeps, coming and coming and coming. It's carrying me, as opposed to me having any effect on it, it's just the momentum of the program has taken me forward to all these wins."

The latest came with the help of Charles, who came off the bench, and McLaren, who made her first start. Renee Montgomery added 14 points and five assists.

Sacred Heart (6-6) was led by guard Amanda Pape, who had 19 points, and became the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,535. She received a standing ovation from the 13,600 fans at the Hartford Civic Center.

"It's a real credit to her work ethic," coach Ed Swanson said. "It's a great accomplishment, especially doing it at a venue like this in front of so many Connecticut fans. She was a big player on the high school level in the Connecticut basketball scene, so it was nice that she could get it done at a place like this."

McLaren, who has been averaging just over 4 points and 13 minutes a game, started because of her work in practice, Auriemma said. Charles didn't mind coming off the bench.

"I actually liked it," she said. "I was able to see what the defense did. I was able to see the way they played Kaili and the way I was able to just go to the middle. So, it actually kind of helped me a good deal."

Pape scored 14 in the first half as the Pioneers hung with the Huskies for the first 13 minutes. Sacred Heart took an early 9-4 lead and forced six early UConn turnovers from a zone defense.

The Pioneers were ahead 23-22 with just over seven minutes to go before the Huskies went on an 18-2 run to close the half up 40-25.

The Huskies held the Pioneers without a field goal for the final 7:19 before intermission, and then scored the first four points after the break.

When Ketia Swanier stole a pass and drove for a layup with 11:52 left, the Huskies were up 60-35. They ended a 19-2 run ahead 73-37.

It was the first meeting between the two Connecticut schools, and just the fourth time the Pioneers have played a ranked team. They have lost all four.

The game was the 15th anniversary of Auriemma's 100th career victory, which came against Iowa State on Dec. 31, 1991.

The 52-year-old Auriemma said he has the same passion for the game, getting "just as miserable" when the Huskies play poorly as he did when he was 30.

"So I guess as long as that is the case, as long as I can feel it and it has an impact on my emotions, than it's a good thing to keep doing," Auriemma said.

After the game, the UConn players put on T-shirts that spelled out "Congrats 600!" and held up little masks in front of their faces, adorned with a picture of Auriemma, circa the mid-1980s.

"I bet he had better hair than a lot of the women back then," said Montgomery, who set up the stunt. "We just wanted to make it nice for him. I think he was surprised."