7:00 PM ET, December 29, 2007
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma threw his old player a curve Saturday night.The top-ranked Huskies used a dizzying variety of defenses on Jennifer Rizzotti's Hartford Hawks and handed Hartford its worst beating of the season, a 70-24 rout. Maya Moore had 21 points and Tina Charles grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds for UConn.Rizzotti, a former All-America point guard at UConn, was a member of the Huskies' 1995 NCAA title team. In their three previous meetings with UConn, the Hawks had been gritty and gutty, much like the style that defined their coach in her playing days.On Saturday night, they were simply confused."It really kind of threw us off," said Rizzotti, now 0-4 against her mentor. "UConn makes teams look worse than they are."Renee Montgomery added 12 for UConn, which opened the season 10-0 for the 10th time since 1994-95, the season the Huskies won the first of their five NCAA titles.The game was UConn's first since earning the top spot in the AP Poll. It's been nearly four years since the Huskies were ranked No. 1, and they were every bit the powerhouse Saturday night. The Hawks (10-3) were coming off last week's upset of then-No. 25 Michigan State, and managed to stay even with UConn for the first five minutes.But any hope of another upset evaporated in a 17-4 UConn run early in the first half. The Huskies then began switching up defenses, rotating from man to zone to half-court traps."That was the start of our demise," Rizzotti said.Reserve forward Charde Houston, who lost her starting job this season, sparked the run, hitting a jumper to break an 8-all tie and the Huskies were off. Houston had three steals, a defensive rebound and four points in six minutes. Her coach liked what he saw."She gives us a chance to extend our defense," Auriemma said. "Her instincts are pretty good defensively. Some of the tentativeness is starting to wear off and she might get back to being her old self."The Hawks wilted under UConn' stifling defense, committing 17 first-half turnovers and missing 23 consecutive shots over a span of nearly 10 minutes. A layup by Hartford's Danielle Hood with 9:47 remaining was the Hawks' final field goal of the period. Hartford had no answers for the Huskies' inside game, which accounted for 16 points in the paint in the first half as the Huskies took a 43-17 lead at the break.The second half was more of the same. The Huskies unloaded their bench over the last several minutes, but even the UConn reserves were more than a handful for the Hawks, who made only two field goals in the last 20 minutes and shot 13 percent from the floor for the game.The Huskies outrebounded Hartford 55-26 and scored 36 points inside. The Hawks finished with 25 turnovers, which UConn turned into 25 points.Moore, a freshman, extended her record streak of double-digit scoring games to open a career to 10 straight games. The freshman also had seven boards, a block and two steals."I just got excited for tonight's game," Moore said. "I just really think if we are excited and our energy is there, that is how we can perform on defense."Jamie McCabe led the Hawks with nine points. Hood, who was averaging nearly 17 points a game, was held to five.For this group of Huskies, a No. 1 ranking is something completely new but the pressure to be among the best in the nation is not."We always had a bulls-eye on our back," Montgomery said. "It just got a little bigger."
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||7-50 (.140)||28-60 (.467)|
|3P Made-Attempted||3-16 (.188)||3-10 (.300)|
|FT Made-Attempted||7-11 (.636)||11-20 (.550)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||13 (0/0)||10 (0/0)|