UConn handles Syracuse 87-62 as Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart combine for 70 points

HARTFORD, Conn. – After dropping 21 straight games and 28 of the last 29 to Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut teams, Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman had high hopes for today’s game in Hartford.

After all, the Orange came in with a 15-1 record, the same as UConn, the best in Syracuse program history. However, they earned the wins with a schedule not loaded with top opponents. The question lingered pregame whether or not the record was misleading. Starting three freshmen guards, would they be able to handle the experienced Husky guards on both ends of the Court?

The answer would be they are for real, but not ready for UConn, as the Huskies pulled away late defeating the Orange 87-62 before a crowd of 14,786.

The anticipated battle between centers fizzled out, as UConn’s Stefanie Dolson was strong throughout, while Kayla Alexander was in early foul trouble for Syracuse. At the 12:39 mark Dolson scored the 1,000th point of her career on her way to 13 first-half points and 25 for the game.

At halftime coach Chris Dailey quipped to the crowd about Dolson’s scoring: “It’s a great achievement, but we need about 1,000 more before she graduates.”

Still, Syracuse hung with the Huskies for most of the first half, led by their defense (seven steals by the Orange, ten turnovers by UConn), and timely scoring from Carmen Tyson-Thomas and Brittney Sykes, each scoring six points.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis hit three first half three-pointers to help the Huskies to their 12-point halftime lead, 41-29.

“Everytime she’s open, she makes them for the most part,” said Auriemma. “Right now we’re trying to be a better balanced team but one of the things that has helped Kaleena, she’s usually not the only three-point shooter on the floor, so the defense has a hard time catching up to all of them. When she’s actively looking for it as opposed to waiting for it, it’s a whole different story. That’s a sign of maturity too.”

Alexander came in only 20 points from setting the school career-points record, and left 16 short after being held to four, 15 below her average. Dolson and Breanna Stewart pestered her and she was unable to get anything going offensively.

After missing a couple of games with an ankle sprain, Stewart looked strong in her return, not only scoring (20 points) and rebounding (six rebounds), but challenging shots and passes by Syracuse, using her wingspan to frustrate the Orange shooters. As the game progressed her confidence offensively grew.

[wpaudio url=”https://www.hoopfeed.com/content/wp-content/uploads/BreannaStewart2013-19-01.mp3″ text=”Breanna Stewart Postgame Interview” dl=”0″]

Mosqueda-Lewis and Dolson continued their onslaught in the second half, working inside and outside to control the game. Dolson’s 25 points set a personal career high for points, and Mosqueda-Lewis hit from both inside and outside the three-point line in racking up 25 herself. Mosqueda-Lewis also added nine rebounds, two assists and four steals.

Mosqueda-Lewis has developed an “inside the three-point line” game this season that has made her more dangerous, using pump fakes and good footwork to absorb contact on mid-range shots.

“I’ve been trying to take the three-point shot to my advantage,” she said. “Pump fake whenever they run out hard to get me, and I’ve got to use my body somehow, it’s got to pay off somewhere. I’m just trying to get in there and be physical, and either make them foul me or just get the shot off.”

Tyson-Thomas and Sykes led Syracuse in scoring with 12 and 10 respectively, but the Orange were held to points, well below their average of 78.7 points per game.

“We talked about Syracuse averaging about 85 points per game the last four games, and they offensive rebound the ball, and we knew going in that was going to be a huge priority,” explained Auriemma. “We felt like if we could do the same thing to them that they’ve been doing to other people, the game would go our way.”

He continued praising the Orange.

“They’re not an easy team to defend; they’ve got some good young players, they’ve got great quickness, so it’s been a steady progression for them to get better and better.”

Next for the Huskies is a “Big Monday” game versus undefeated Duke on ESPN in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day matchup. Syracuse continues their road trip with a morning game at St. John’s on Wednesday.

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