Thomas nails five 3s, No. 4 UConn sinks No. 19 Louisville

STORRS, Conn. -- After four consecutive wins against ranked opponents, Connecticut is starting to feel good about the way its playing.

Renee Montgomery scored 20 points and Mel Thomas added 19 to help the fourth-ranked Huskies rout Louisville (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today; No. 20 AP) 84-56 on Tuesday night and move one step closer to their first regular-season Big East championship in three years.

Thomas hit five 3-pointers, including one on a play she started by diving face-first to save a rebound off a missed free-throw when UConn was already up by 24 points.

"Those are the kind of plays that made Connecticut famous," coach Geno Auriemma said. "Those are the kind of things that got us on television all those games. And it's nice to see that."

Connecticut (23-2, 12-0 Big East) also got 19 points from Charde Houston.

The Huskies jumped on Louisville early, scoring the first 16 points of the game, while the Cardinals (22-4, 8-4) missed their first eight shots. Louisville didn't get on the board until Yuliya Tokova hit a put-back with 15:13 to go before intermission.

The Huskies led 28-8 midway through the half, before Louisville used a 7-0 run to cut the gap to 13. But Connecticut had stretched that to 44-22 at intermission, hitting 7-of-11 from behind the arc. They were 9-of-18 on 3-pointers for the game.

"We just got shell shocked," Louisville coach Tom Collen said. "I believe we hit a point in the game early where we didn't believe we could win. To our credit, I don't believe we stopped playing, but we weren't good enough to make up any ground."

UConn went on an 18-6 run to open the second half. When Houston stole the ball from Kala Faulkner and went in for an easy layup, the Huskies led 62-28.

"That's our style of play," Montgomery said. "I think we're playing our best basketball when we are getting steals, running the floor, getting open looks. That's what we have to do every game, and anytime we do that the outcome is going to be great."

Louisville's Angel McCoughtry led all scorers with 28 points. She came into the game leading the Big East in scoring, rebounding and steals. She averages almost 22 points, and over 11 rebounds a game, and now has 86 steals, adding six to her total against UConn.

But she didn't get much help. The Huskies held the Cardinals to 30 percent shooting, 22 percent in the first half, and forced 21 Cardinal turnovers.

"The idea was to let the other guys score and not let (McCoughtry) score," Auriemma said. "We got it confused a little bit."

The win was the ninth in a row for Connecticut (23-2, 12-0 Big East). The last four have come over No. 21 Marquette, No. 23 Rutgers, No. 7 LSU and Louisville.

The loss knocks the Cardinals out of a second place tie in the conference.

The Huskies came into the game with a three-game lead in the Big East race over Louisville, Marquette, and Rutgers. They can clinch their 15th Big East regular-season championship with wins over Pittsburgh on Saturday and at South Florida on Feb. 20.

"I don't think we're finished yet," Auriemma said. "I don't think we're anywhere near the point where we can look back and say, 'Wow, that was pretty good."