by Mike Potter
Both teams are 16-1 and the Huskies recently had their record 89-game winning streak ended.
UConn will be favored, but not quite prohibitively despite winning the last two meetings by a combined 41 points.
Of course UConn forward Maya Moore is one of the better players in the history of the game, period.
There’s a raucous crowd in the house including several hundred boisterous visiting fans. The biggest question a very deep No. 10 Tar Heel team may answer tonight may be whether or not it actually thinks it can win.
And a lot of things may have to go well early on for that concept to stick.
They don’t, as the Huskies score the first eight points of the first half and the first 12 points of the second and roll to an 83-57 win.
UConn scores the first eight points in 87 seconds before Krista Gross works hard for a bucket under the hoop at 17:43.
The Huskies’ biggest lead in the first half is 16, at 33-17 on Tiffany Hayes’ layup from Kelly Faris at 11:25.
But there is no first-half knockout punch, and the lead is 49-37 at the break. The Huskies outshoot the Tar Heels 56.8 to 38.9 and have three players — Hayes with 18, Moore with 14 and Bria Hartley with 11 over the first 20 minutes. UConn is leading the rebound battle 20-19 and has six turnovers to UNC’s seven.
That knockout punch happens early in the second half as UConn scores the first 12 points to make it 61-37 on a pair of Hayes free throws with 16:36 to go.
The biggest lead is 31, at 81-50 on a pair of Moore free throws with 4:33 remaining.
Hayes leads the Huskies with 29 points while Moore adds 26 with 10 rebounds. Hartley finishes with 11 and Stefanie Dolson 10.
Italee Lucas is the only Tar Heel in double figures with 13 points.
UConn shoots 48.5 percent from the floor to 30.7 for the Tar Heels and wins the rebound battle 48-40.
They said it …
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “I’m disappointed we didn’t give them a better game. I thought we were well-prepared. I thought early they made a lot of shots. We took some bad shots, we missed a lot of shots and they were able to get transition buckets. I thought in the first half that was the biggest difference, that they were getting easy buckets off of transition off our bad shots or missed shots. And they’re a great shooting team.”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma: “This might have been the best game we’ve played since the beginning of the season. Winning on the road you have to rebound the ball, you have to make sure you don’t put them on the free-throw line and you really have to make sure you get the shot you want on offense. And I thought from the opening tip we did that.”
Moore: “That was the best game as far as how it felt, and sometimes you can’t really pinpoint why certain games don’t have a good or not-so-good feel. But tonight we were all aggressive. You could just look in our eyes, feel it from people’s hands in high-fives, chest bumps and pulling people up off the ground. It was great to see every single person who was on the floor.”
Breland: “We weren’t putting the ball in the basket. We got the ball inside, but we have to do better as post players taking the contact and just going with it, or creating contact. We definitely can’t stay down too long. Once you get down there’s only one way up. Life throws you loops like this and what matters is how you respond to it.”
What does it all mean?
That yes, the Huskies are still that good, and should be ranked No. 1 for beating Baylor. And that the Tar Heels are going to have to be a lot more efficient should they somehow get another shot in the NCAA Tournament.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Faris’ layup to make it 55-39 with 18:40 left in the game.
UConn leads 6-5.
UNC: Lost 1.
UConn: Won 5.
UNC vs. Wake Forest, Thursday, 7 p.m.
UConn vs. Pittsburgh, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.