CHARLESTON, S.C. – Bria Hartley scored 15 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 13 as No. 2 Connecticut bounced back from a rare regular season loss with a 72-24 victory over the College of Charleston on Wednesday night.
The Huskies' defense befuddled Charleston (2-8). The Cougars made just seven of their 49 shots (14 percent) and turned the ball over 24 times. Charleston's 24 points were just four away from the best defensive effort ever by the Huskies (10-1).
But Connecticut's offense didn't look crisp. They shot just 44 percent, committed 14 turnovers and had their lowest scoring first half of the season with just 27 points.
The Huskies were coming off a 66-61 loss to No. 1 Baylor on Sunday and now haven't lost back-to-back games since March 1993 — a streak of 660 games that started two seasons before coach Geno Auriemma won his first of seven national titles with the Huskies. They also haven't lost to an unranked team in seven years.
The hangover from the Huskies second regular season loss in four years seemed to hang around at the start. Connecticut missed its first nine shots, finally getting on the board when Kelly Faris hit a 3-pointer with 15:30 left in the first half. The Huskies never did trail, because Charleston didn't score its first points until Christy Hewitt hit a layup that made it 10-2 Connecticut with 11:35 to go in the opening half.
The Huskies held the Cougars scoreless for another eight-minute stretches in the first half, taking a 27-6 lead on Faris' second 3-pointer of the half with just over two minutes to go. They led 27-8 at the break, but it was still wasn't the Huskies' best defensive first half this season — they held Farleigh-Dickenson to five points earlier this year.
Connecticut kept pouring it on in the second half, scoring the first 18 points of the half before Megan Fischer's 3-pointer cut the Huskies lead to 45-11 with 11:45 to go and ended Charleston's 19-minute streak without a field goal.
Jazz Green's 3-pointer with 1:46 to go cut Charleston's deficit to 66-23 and assured the Cougars wouldn't go down into Connecticut history as the opponent who scored the least against the Huskies. That still belongs to Quinnipiac, who scored just 20 against Connecticut in December 1998.
Green scored eight points, including back-to-back 3s late in the second half, while Fischer led Charleston with seven points.
Auriemma agreed to come to the College of Charleston in part to spread the popularity of women's basketball. The game brought 3,868 people to TD Arena, more than tripling the previous best attendance for a Cougars women's game. He's done this before. Last year, Connecticut played at Pacific before swinging to Stanford, and in 2009, the Huskies visited Holy Cross.
Lots of Huskies blue could be seen in the arena, but there were also a few high school teams in their warm-up suits. Charleston played its part by honoring some of the region's best women's basketball players like Katrina McClain and Kalana Greene.
The game featured a couple of the giants of coaching in women's basketball with more than 1,300 wins between them. Charleston coach Nancy Wilson brought the Cougars to three AIAW national title games before the NCAA started offering its own titles for women sports, and the Cougars honored those teams before tip-off.
Charleston will head to Connecticut next season.