5:30 PM ET, December 18, 2008
CANCUN, Mexico -- Geno Auriemma refuses to coddle Tina Charles, convinced Connecticut's junior forward can be one of the nation's best post players.The past couple games, Charles has shown precisely how good she can be.Charles scored 29 points in a nearly flawless shooting performance Thursday, leading top-ranked Connecticut to a 109-51 rout of Washington at the Caribbean Classic."It's great to see her catching the ball now and deciding how best to attack the basket," Auriemma said. "Last year, she'd catch it and dribble it without any purpose. The rhythm she's in right now is really effective for her."Charles made her first 12 shots and finished 13-of-15 from the field for her second consecutive 20-point game, the first time the junior center has accomplished that feat since her freshman season. Charles also scored 29 against Penn State on Sunday."I just played the way I've been playing the last few games," Charles said. "They pass me the ball and I just try to score."UConn sophomore Maya Moore added 23 points and 14 rebounds, wrapping up her fourth double-double of the season by halftime. Freshman Tiffany Hayes also scored 13 for UConn (8-0), which set a season-high for points after scoring a season-low 77 against the Nittany Lions.Sara Mosiman scored 11 points and Laura McLellan had 10 for Washington (3-4), which has lost all three of its meetings with UConn. Each time, Connecticut has been undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation.Both teams were dealing with injuries at the Moon Palace Resort.McLellan was playing with a sore ankle and Heidi McNeill had a thigh bruise, but both started for Washington. Reserve forward Mackenzie Argens did not play while rehabilitating her left knee following surgery earlier this month.UConn played without reserve forward Meghan Gardler, who was kept out of the game as a precaution after sustaining a blow to the head during practice on Wednesday.Connecticut scored the first nine points and built its lead to 16-3 by the first media timeout, missing just once in its first eight shots.Taking advantage of a major height advantage, UConn went inside to 6-foot-4 Charles and increased its lead to a 36-18 with 7:26 left in the half. Charles finally missed her first shot with 15:44 to go in the game, but calmly gathered the offensive rebound and scored."Coach always tells us our best offense is fueled by defense, and we came out with a lot of energy," Moore said. "We locked them up, put our hands in the passing lanes and scored some points on the fast break. And the ball was dropping for us."The nation's best shooting team shook off its worst shooting performance of the season against Penn State, going 24-of-34 from the field in opening a 57-24 halftime lead. UConn wound up shooting 64.2 percent for the game, and held Washington to just 26.3 percent.It was the Connecticut's 35th straight win during an in-season tournament. Its last loss was to Vanderbilt on Dec. 29, 1992, at the Hilton Head (S.C.) Super Shootout.Connecticut plays Northern Colorado on Friday night in the round-robin event. The Bears lost 75-32 to Florida State in Thursday's other tournament game.
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