Jefferson leads No. 1 UConn in rout of Memphis, 86-46
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) UConn coach Geno Auriemma wonders whether it helps teams occasionally to lose, particularly his top-ranked Huskies.
''Maybe we need to lose a couple of times just to let everybody know it's not as easy as we make it look,'' Auriemma said.
That wasn't a concern Wednesday night.
Moriah Jefferson matched her season high with 21 points, Breanna Stewart had 11 points and eight rebounds and UConn remained undefeated with an 86-46 win over Memphis.
The Huskies (15-0, 5-0 American Athletic Conference) led by double-digits about 7 minutes in and never trailed. That was a change from recent games, when the Huskies got off to slow starts.
''It was a goal that we wanted to get off to a better start,'' Stewart said. ''We wanted to make sure it was not a slow build up to start the game. We wanted to go out and hit them first.''
Katie Lou Samuelson matched Stewart's 11 points and Napheesa Collier had 10. Jefferson was 7 of 8 from the field and 3 of 4 outside the arc.
Ariel Hearn, Mooriah Rowser and Brea Elmore led Memphis (9-8, 3-3) with 12 points each, although Hearn was slowed by foul trouble in the first half.
Memphis struggled controlling the ball throughout, committing 26 turnovers, leading to 33 UConn points.
''UConn is UConn,'' Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin said, adding: ''I just don't want to run up and down the floor and say we played UConn. I want to compete against them.''
Any hopes of competing left quickly.
The Huskies pulled away early with a 20-2 run for a 31-8 advantage after one quarter. Hearn, the Tigers leading scorer, picked up her third foul early in the second quarter immediately after connecting on her first basket, a 3-pointer.
Memphis didn't score over the final 7:37 of the first half, allowing the Huskies to lead 46-18 at halftime.
By the end of the third, the Huskies were up 68-34 and Auriemma sat the bulk of his starters the rest of the game.
''I think the best thing about the game was the way we ran at them and pressured them and kind of made them feel uncomfortable,'' Stewart said. ''Especially in the first half.''
UConn: The Huskies entered with an average winning margin of 46 points in its previous four meetings against Memphis, including an 87-24 win in Storrs, Connecticut last season. ... The Huskies have won 52 straight overall and 92 straight against unranked teams. The last unranked opponent to defeat UConn was St. John's, 57-56 on Feb. 18, 2012.
Memphis: This was the first time the Tigers played UConn at on-campus Elma Roane Fieldhouse. Memphis has twice hosted the Huskies at the downtown FedExForum, home of the Tigers men's team and the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. ... Memphis had hosted the No. 1 team at the on-campus gym only two other times. The Tigers beat Louisiana Tech 72-69 in 1984 and lost to Tennessee 91-65 in 1998.
END OF THE ROAD: The game was the final stop on a three-game trip for the Huskies, and Auriemma found the swing beneficial for maturity. ''Come March, the teams that haven't grown up - the teams still playing girls' basketball instead of women's basketball -- are going to get (eliminated).''
HOWEVER: Auriemma did say if absence makes the heart grow fonder, ''I'm going to be a lot fonder of (his team) when we get home.'' Asked why, the UConn coach said: ''I'm 61; they're 20. They don't need any 61-year-old friends, and I don't need any 20-year-old friends.''
UConn: Hosts Temple on Saturday night.
Memphis: Visits SMU on Saturday.