12:00 PM ET, February 7, 2010
Charles reaches double digits for 14th straight game in UConn's rout
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Connecticut quickly turned a rematch of last season's national championship game into a total mismatch.The top-ranked Huskies (23-0, 10-0 Big East) were barely tested by the final team they faced on last year's championship run, using lethal 3-point shooting and an exhausting defense to breeze past short-handed Louisville 84-38 on Sunday."If teams are playing against us, you'd better hope we miss shots," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "When we hit shots like we did today from the perimeter, we're tough to play against."Such was the predicament Louisville (11-12, 3-7) found itself in from the opening minutes until the end as UConn extended its winning streak to 62 straight, the second-best in women's Division I history behind only the 70-game streak by the 2001-03 Huskies.What's more, the games haven't been close. All 62 have been decided by double digits, the last six by at least 30 and 11 games this year -- Sunday's included -- the margin was 40 or more. UConn blew out Louisville 76-54 in the title game in April. Other than their game against No. 2 Stanford on Dec. 23, the Huskies have trailed fewer than four minutes total over that stretch.Tina Charles again led the way with 20 points and nine rebounds. Charles, the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four when UConn won its sixth national championship against Louisville last spring, has scored in double figures 14 straight games, breaking her personal best set last year.Afterward, it was the Huskies' defensive performance that most pleased Charles and her teammates."We definitely take pride in our defense," Charles said. "Rotation, hedging, just talking out there, communicating. Being in the right spots."Or, in the eyes of the Louisville's coach, being in all spots."They guard you without fouling," said Jeff Waltz. "They don't reach. They don't slap. If you put the ball in front of them, they take it from you."The Huskies never trailed and put away the Cardinals early with two extended scoring runs that lasted most of the first half and early into the second. UConn was especially good from beyond the arc, hitting more first-half 3-pointers (8) than Louisville had field goals (7). The Huskies finished with 11."We came out and fought hard," said Asia Taylor, whose 7 points trailed only Keshia Hines' 9 for the Cardinals. "It's just their defense, it's crazy. It's where we want ours to be."Maya Moore added 16 points and Caroline Doty had 11 for the Huskies.Louisville trailed 11-9 a few minutes in after a three-point play by Taylor, but that's when UConn went on its first scoring barrage. The 22-2 run was highlighted by a dazzling steal and fastbreak layup by Moore.After Hines stopped the momentum by scoring the game's next five points, UConn closed the first half and began the second on a 29-2 run. Louisville didn't score for 8 minutes, until freshman walk-on Shelby Harper hit a 3 to make it 61-21 with 16 minutes left in the game."You think you're open then all of a sudden somebody else comes in," Hines said. "You think you've got a wide-open shot and somebody blocks your shot. It's hard out there."Connecticut led 54-18 at halftime, the 10th time scoring 50 or more in a half this season.UCOnn won the rebounding battle 47-37, but the team leader was surprisingly not Charles, but rather, 5-foot-4 guard Lorin Dixon, who had a career-high 10."Tina gets rebounds all the time, every game," Dixon said. "I just decided to crash the boards today and try to help out close range and down low."While the Cardinals started sluggishly, hitting just one of their first six shot, all five UConn starters scored within the first 5 minutes.The Louisville team that lost to UConn on Sunday was a far cry from the one that fell to the Huskies in last year's national title game. Angel McCoughtry graduated to the WNBA, and key injuries have depleted the Cardinals of much of their depth -- especially in the backcourt.Point guard Deseree Byrd sustained a season-ending knee injury in December and fellow starting guard Nikki Burton has missed five straight games with a groin injury.Backup LaToya Johnson just returned to the court this month after missing eight week weeks with a stress reaction in her hip, forcing Harper into a starting role.Walz said the injury problems have proven to be effective in weight loss, as he has dropped 15 pounds since March."We've got a lot of work to do," he said. "We've got to stay healthy, and I'm not sure we're going to be able to get healthy enough before the end of the year."
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