UConn rolls to season-high 64 point win over Tulsa
TULSA, Okla. (AP) About two weeks ago, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma made some tactical changes to the Huskies' defense, and the moves have paid off.
Since the adjustment, the No. 1 Huskies have won five consecutive games by over 40 points, culminating with their biggest win of the season Wednesday night, when Breanna Stewart scored 24 points and had 10 rebounds to help lead UConn to a dominating 94-30 victory over Tulsa.
''We've changed up a couple of things defensively and it's made a big difference,'' Auriemma said. ''We've gotten more involved, more aggressive. We've become much more of an attacking team than we were, let's say, a month ago.''
Moriah Jefferson and Katie Lou Samuelson each added 14 points for the three-time defending national champion Huskies (19-0, 9-0 American), who won their 56th consecutive game.
For Stewart, who also added five assists and four blocked shots, her rebound total pushed her over 1,000 for her career, becoming the sixth UConn player to reach the milestone.
''It's a big accomplishment that a lot of people don't even think about or realize,'' Stewart said. ''Most of the time, people are focused on points, and I think that being able to do other things and get 1,000 points, it means a lot.''
Tatyana Perez scored six points to lead Tulsa (7-14, 4-6), which lost for the fourth time in its last five.
It was the second time this season that UConn completely dismantled the Golden Hurricane, as the Huskies routed Tulsa 95-35 in Hartford back on Jan. 6, with those games marking their two largest victories of the season - and Tulsa's two biggest defeats.
''Defensively, they are so athletic, they are so fast, and they put so much pressure on you that we just could not get into an offense,'' said Tulsa coach Matilda Mossman. ''Then we multiplied our problems by taking bad shots, and then didn't get back on the defensive end to allow them to score points in transition.''
Connecticut controlled the game right from the opening tip-off, as Kia Nurse sank a 3-pointer just nine seconds into the contest. After Tulsa's Kelsee Grovey hit a 3 to pull the Golden Hurricane to within 5-3 with 2:08 elapsed, UConn proceeded to reel off a 22-0 run the rest of the first quarter, taking a 27-3 advantage into the second.
It was the lowest-scoring quarter of the season for Tulsa, who shot just 1-for-15 from the floor.
At that point, Stewart already had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
''The last time I played Tulsa, I wanted to play better than I did in that game,'' said Stewart, referencing her 12 points and nine rebounds on Jan. 6. ''I didn't play bad, but I thought I could have done more, and that was my mindset coming into this game.''
The Huskies continued to add to their lead in the second, using a 14-0 run to build up a 51-9 cushion when Samuelson connected for her third 3 of the opening half with 1:04 left.
UConn led 53-12 at halftime, marking its largest halftime lead of the season and the fourth straight game in which they've topped 50 points and led by more than 30 at the break.
The Huskies' lead just kept increasing throughout the second half, as they finished the contest on an 11-3 run over the final 3:33.
Connecticut: Tulsa's 30 points marks a season-low for the UConn defense. The Huskies also held Tulsa to just 17.9 percent shooting (10 for 56), the Huskies' lowest percentage allowed this season. The Golden Hurricane's 10 field goals made was also a season-low for UConn.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane shot just 17.9 percent from the floor (10 for 56), marking their lowest field goal percentage of the season, surpassing the 26.7 percent (16 for 60) from their first meeting with UConn on Jan. 6. Their 10 field goals made was also a season-low.
UConn won its 96th consecutive contest against an unranked opponent, dating back to a 57-56 loss to St. John's on Feb. 18, 2012. Since 1993-94, the Huskies are an amazing 551-9 against unranked foes, which includes a stretch of 272-1. ... The Huskies are now 359-15 all-time when playing as the nation's No. 1 team.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
''It's actually not as hard as you think, because there's always something that we can be getting better at. We don't even think about the score, we're just worried about our own improvement.'' UConn sophomore guard Gabby Williams on playing with a huge lead.
Connecticut: hosts Memphis on Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford.
Tulsa: visits UCF on Saturday.