No. 5 UConn rolls past Cincinnati for 700th D-I win

CINCINNATI -- All that Connecticut wanted to do was take a deep breath, pack up the commemorative game ball and head for home.

Sometimes, history doesn't come so easily.

Kalana Greene made three jumpers during an early 19-point run and Connecticut (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) overcame a second-half meltdown to reach another program milestone Tuesday night with a 70-60 victory over Cincinnati.

The five-time national champions became the 18th team to win 700 games in Division I, taking the game ball as a memento. The Huskies will most remember how hard they had to scrap at the end to get it, pulling off an 11-0 closing run.

"I'd like to move on, get on the plane and go home," a sapped coach Geno Auriemma said.

Those final few minutes helped UConn (19-2, 9-0) remain the only unbeaten team in the Big East. The Huskies have won their first nine conference games for the second season in a row.

After blowing a 15-point lead, the Huskies won it because they played like they've been in big games before. By contrast, Cincinnati (12-9, 3-6) missed its last 10 shots, appearing to feel the pressure of the moment.

"It was just our team composure and how we stayed together," said UConn's Renee Montgomery, whose open 3-pointer started the closing run. "In the end, we just handled ourselves really well. We ran our plays the way we wanted to run them, made our free throws and played defense."

Greene also had a driving basket during the closing run, which sent Cincinnati to its sixth loss in its last eight games. The Bearcats didn't quite have enough to upset the team that scores the most points and gives up the fewest in the conference.

"It was just cut-and-dried basketball," coach Laurie Pirtle said. "I think we missed four wide-open looks during that process."

Greene led UConn with a game-high 20 points on 10-of-17 shooting, making the biggest shots throughout the game.

UConn 3-point leader Mel Thomas got the biggest individual cheer during pregame introductions. The junior guard led Cincinnati's Mt. Notre Dame to an undefeated season and a state prep championship during her senior year.

The game turned into a homecoming for Thomas, who finished with 14 points. Mt. Notre Dame's dance team performed at halftime, and fans wearing the high school's colors cheered from the stands.

"It's just nice that a lot of them still care and still follow me," Thomas said.

Cincinnati sophomore Michelle Jones was a teammate on Thomas' state championship team. Jones finished with 11 points, one of four Bearcats in double figures.

While they warmed up before the game, using purple stretch bands to limber up their legs, several Bearcats players sneaked peaks at a high-energy Huskies passing drill on the other side of the court. A few minutes into the game, they got to see what the Huskies can do when they get their game rolling.

Cincinnati opened with a 6-0 run and then got run over by UConn's fast-paced offense. Greene made three jumpers during a 19-0 spurt that also featured a crowd-pleasing 3 by Thomas.

UConn made six consecutive shots and went 7-of-8 overall during the spurt. UConn led by as many as 15 points in the half.

The Huskies' foul problems in the second half helped Cincinnati turned it into a back-and-forth finish.

UConn freshman center Tina Charles, who set a school and Big East freshman record with nine blocked shots in a win over Notre Dame on Saturday, picked up her fourth foul with 12:43 left. Forward Kaili McLaren also picked up her fourth foul with 9:08 to go, depleting UConn's front line.

Cincinnati took advantage by driving to the basket -- bank shots by Angel Morgan and Treasure Humphries cut it to 53-52. Charles then fouled Jill Stephens, who made both free throws with 6:17 left for Cincinnati's first lead since the opening minutes, 56-55.

"We're a running team," said Humphries, who had 11 points. "That's what we do. We just didn't execute down the line."

There were four lead changes before UConn pulled off its clinching run. After leading 60-59, Cincinnati failed to score over the final five minutes.