Defense and dominant second half propels UConn past Georgetown, 80-38

STORRS, Conn. – You knew after the success Louisville had this past Tuesday against Connecticut in an aggressive, physical game that Georgetown was going to try to do the same. For half the game, it was a pretty good strategy, and the Hoyas were within thirteen at the half, despite their own poor shooting. In the second half, however, the Huskies responded, playing their own aggressive defense and not backing down on either end of the court, outscoring Georgetown 49-20 and earning an 80-38 victory.

The first sellout crowd of the season at Gampel Pavilion saw a first half that was certainly not a clinic on efficiency, as both teams made less than half their shots, and combined to shoot 5-27 from three point territory. They did, however, combine for 21 turnovers and 15 personal fouls. As most Connecticut-Georgetown games are, it was physical, with bodies hitting the ground from the opening tap.

“When we play them it’s always a physical game,” said Husky point guard Bria Hartley, “it’s a battle, and we know we’ve got to go out there, play hard, play smart, and be tough. They press the entire game, so you definitely get a lot tougher [opponent] and you have to be tougher to win.”

Hartley had to sit out a few minutes in the half after taking a finger to the eye.

After struggling for a few games, it was freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis that shot UConn into the first half lead, hitting five of ten shots for 11 first half points.

“At some point when you’re a really good player and you’re a really good shooter, they’re going to go in, “explained Connecticut head coach Auriemma. “You just can’t stop, and you can’t be tentative. You can’t question yourself. If you can do that, than eventually it will come back.”

Georgetown point guard Rubylee Wright kept the Hoyas in striking distance, scoring eight of the Hoyas eighteen points. The conference leading scorer at 19.9 points per game, Sugar Rodgers was held to five first half points.

In the second half, though, the Huskies came out with a different mindset, and it immediately paid dividends. After Wright scored the first points in the half, Kelly Faris and Caroline Doty hit back-to-back three pointers, Hartley scored on two layups, and after Alexa Roche scored for Georgetown, Tiffany Hayes, Hartley and Kiah Stokes all scored. The lead was up to 25 and the rout was on.

When asked about the difference between the two halves, Faris responded: “our mentality.”

“It’s never about the effort with us, it’s more about paying attention,” she continued, “and whether we’re comprehending what he’s saying, and we’re executing. Probably our difference in the second half is we came out mentally ready.”

Faris was disappointed when told that Rodgers still managed to score ten points.

“Dang, she got ten? It’s still ten points. Obviously defense is our strong point, and it’s a complete team effort. No matter who their star player is, or who has who.”

“The kids on our team take it personally,”€ commented Auriemma about the Huskies’ defense on opposing teams’ leading scorers. “If you just think you’re going to get your average on Kelly Faris, you’ve got another thing coming, it’s not going to happen.”

Interestingly, the more aggressive the play and harder the fouls were committed in the second half, the Hoyas seemed to let the refereeing and the physicality effect them mentally more than the Huskies did. In particular, Hoyas’ Adria Crawford seemed to be mentally taken out of her game, until finally removed with just over five minutes left in the game.

“We knew they were going to be physical,” said Hartley. “We played them three times last year, and every time we play them it’s a really physical game. First half, I don’t think we handled it as well as we would have liked to, so the second half we came out, got everyone on the same page, and said we’re going to be tougher, and no matter how many times they fouled us, or how hard they fouled us we had to keep our composure, and keep playing.”

The Huskies shot 62.5 percent in the second half, led by Hartley (4-5, 13 second half points) and Mosqueda-Lewis (5-6, 12 second half points). They assisted on 12 of 15 field goals in the half, and committed only five turnovers. It was one of the most complete halves offensively the team has put together all season. Everyone on the team except Lauren Engeln, who did not attempt a shot, scored in the second half. Mosqueda-Lewis finished with a game high 23 and Hartley 18.

Georgetown, fighting for the third spot in the Big East with St. John’s, behind Notre Dame and Connecticut, have two road games, at Villanova and Syracuse, plus a home game with Providence before they face the Red Storm in their last regular season game. That game most likely will determine the final seeding for the Big East tournament.

Connecticut plays Monday night on ESPN2 at Oklahoma, before returning to Gampel Pavilion next Saturday night to face St. John’s on senior night for Tiffany Hayes.

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