Charles carries No. 5 UConn to victory over Marquette

MILWAUKEE -- Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma went to freshman Tina Charles before the game and asked her if she played hard every day.

She said she didn't.

Auriemma shot back: "Until that changes, you're going to struggle and we're going to struggle."

Charles responded by tying a career high with 20 points and Connecticut (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today; No. 6 AP) beat Marquette (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today; No. 16 AP) 52-48 on Saturday night.

Connecticut (20-2, 10-0 Big East) won its sixth straight game and ran its record to 10-0 in league play for the second straight season and eighth time in school history.

Charles acknowledged that she needs to become more consistent.

"It's just mental," she said. "I just have to go out there, mentally always be aggressive."

Christina Quaye led Marquette with 20 points, including 14 in the second half, but she missed a late 3-pointer that could have given the Golden Eagles the lead.

Marquette (19-4, 7-3) has lost two in a row for the first time this season. Marquette lost at No. 23 Rutgers on Tuesday.

"You can't disappear for 10 minutes in the first half against a top-10 team that knows how to win and put yourself in that much of a hole," Marquette coach Terri Mitchell said. "The second half, that is the Marquette team I know and love. We played with energy and passion. We were attacking. I loved how we finished the game."

The Golden Eagles quickly erased an 11-point halftime deficit and stuck close to the Huskies deep into the second half. Two free throws by Danielle Kamm cut Connecticut's lead to 47-43 with 5:36 remaining.

Connecticut's Renee Montgomery answered with a driving layup and a foul shot, but Quaye hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four, then hit two free throws to cut lead to 50-48 with 36.4 seconds left.

But Quaye missed a 3-pointer with 12.5 seconds left, and Montgomery hit two free throws to put the game away.

"It was an open shot," she said. "I missed it."

Auriemma claimed he wasn't watching.

"I didn't really see any of it," Auriemma said. "I just sat down with my head in my hands, waiting for the final horn."

Charles has been streaky as a freshman. But Auriemma simply doesn't have any upperclassmen to play in her place, so he's just trying to get her to mature as quickly as possible.

Auriemma said in a recent meeting with Charles, she said that she didn't necessarily have to play her best every night because she knew her teammates would pick her up.

"It's such a bizarre way of thinking," Auriemma said. "You have to come in and say, `I have to play well."

But Auriemma acknowledged that he is asking a lot of a freshman -- and other young Connecticut players -- this year.

"We're asking her to do more than we probably should at this point in her career, but that's where we're at right now," Auriemma said.

Marquette came into Saturday night's game as the Big East's third-best 3-point shooting team, but was only 2-for-18 from 3-point range.

Connecticut also held sophomore Krystal Ellis, Marquette's leading scorer at 18.5 points per game, to 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting -- including 1-for-6 from 3-point range.

Connecticut evened its record to 2-2 against ranked opponents this season. The Huskies lost to No. 4 Tennessee and No. 2 North Carolina last month, and beat No. 9 Purdue in November.

Montgomery added 12 points for Connecticut, which has won 63 of its last 71 road games dating to February 2001.

It was a loss for Marquette, but a record home crowd of 4,000 was another sign that the Golden Eagles' program is progressing.

"The crowd really lifted us and carried us," Mitchell said.

Auriemma complemented the rowdy Marquette fans -- sort of, anyway. The coach deadpanned that he couldn't believe some of the things fans were yelling near the Connecticut bench.

"I'm losing faith in the Catholic education," Auriemma said. "I know it's Milwaukee, and people drink a lot."

But, Auriemma, added, the crowd could "never be worse" than the fans at Rutgers.

"Rutgers fans, they're just born miserable and they stay miserable all their life," Auriemma said.