NEWARK, N.J. – Big East Conference women’s play began on Saturday with an eye-opening score. The UConn Huskies, defending Big East and national champions romped over Seton Hall 81-24 at the Prudential Center. In a game whose result undoubtedly sent chills among the rest of the conference, the Huskies went on a 17-0 run after the score was tied at two and never looked back. The three keys to the game:
1. Talent – UConn is absolutely loaded. With eleven players dressed the most minutes (23) went to Tina Charles and Meghan Gardler, the least to Jacquie Fernandes, who logged 11. Going to the bench there did not seem to be much of a drop-off in skills. Coach Geno Auriemma also has the luxury of two solid point guards. Sophomore Tiffany Hayes is more of your half court set floor leader while junior Lorin Dixon is a high-octane transition type. Some teams are fortunate having one proven lead guard; UConn has two.
2. Pick your poison – The exact phrase used by Seton Hall coach Phyllis Mangina. UConn, with Charles posting and Maya Moore penetrating, is a force inside. Mangina opted to give the Huskies the outside shot. They knocked down 6 of 18 from three but also hit a succession of mid range jumpers from fifteen feet. On the afternoon, UConn shot 57 percent (38 of 67).
3. Scoring woes – Throughout the pre-conference schedule Seton Hall had trouble scoring and turning the ball over. They committed 28 turnovers, despite the fact UConn did not press. In addition the Pirates shot 17 percent from the floor (9 of 52). “When you do not shoot well against an opponent like UConn the problem magnifies,” Mangina said. “you have to shoot very well to have any chance of beating them.” Or of being in the game. The Pirates actually shot better from three-point range (4 for 21 for 19 percent) than inside the arc (5 for 31 for 16 percent).
- Seton Hall did not have a player in double figures and was led by junior guard Ebonie Williams with 9 points.
- UConn pit four players in double figures and was led by Charles’ 19 points 8 rebounds. “Since last March (Charles) has just lifted her game to another level,” Mangina said of the 6-4 Husky center.
- UConn improved to 12-0, their “closest” game being a 12-point win over number two Stanford just before Christmas.
- The Hall falls to 8-6 and Syracuse is next on Tuesday. “There are things to learn from this game but we have to put it behind us,” Mangina said. “In the Big East you need a big ego and a short memory.”
- UConn Coach Geno Auriemma, on facing a team UConn has defeated 25 straight times: “Our kids do not realize the history of the series. What we do every game is simply prepare for the opponent at hand. We focus on each team and get ready in the same manner.”
- Attendance was 4,166, as roughly eight busloads of UConn fans made it for the afternoon meeting.