Hartford - Stefanie Dolson, newly crowned 1,000-point scorer, exited the game with two minutes remaining to a standing ovation from the largest crowd of the year, 14,786 fans at the XL Center, giving her cause to grin a little.
"Something I'll never forget, that's for sure," UConn's Dolson said late Saturday afternoon.
But lest things get all sentimental, there were UConn associate coach Chris Dailey's words at halftime to put things in their proper perspective.
"We need about 1,000 more before she graduates," Dailey said.
Dolson, though, who needed eight points entering the game to reach 1,000, did finish with a career-high 25 points, adding seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals as No. 3 UConn toppled Syracuse 87-62.
Dolson became the 36th player in UConn history to score 1,000 points, doing so on an assist from Brianna Banks at the 12:39 mark of the first half. A 6-foot-5 junior center, Dolson also helped hold 6-4 Syracuse center Kayla Alexander (1,771 points, second in program history) to four, limited to 11 minutes before fouling out.
That, all in all, made it Dolson's day. At least until No. 4 Duke arrives Monday in Storrs.
"I think it's something we've been looking at, coaches, fans, teammates," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of Dolson's consistency this season and the transformation she's made since her freshman year. "… I thought today was a real good indication of everything she's been working at. She's put herself in a great situation right now. I just hopes she keeps getting better every day.
"… She's made herself into what she is because that's what she's always expected to be."
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 25 points, hitting six 3-point field goals, and added nine rebounds and four steals, while freshman Breanna Stewart scored 20 points in her first game back after missing two games with an ankle injury. Stewart is a Syracuse resident who scored more than 2,300 points at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
UConn (16-1 overall, 4-1 Big East) led 18-7 when Dolson scored her 1,000th point.
Syracuse, headed into the game tied for its best start in program history at 15-1 and receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, brought the deficit to within 28-27 on two straight baskets by Shakeya Leary and following a UConn miss came back down the floor with a chance to take the lead.
UConn scored the next seven points, capped by a Bria Hartley 3-pointer, that bumped the lead to eight, however, with the Huskies finishing the half on a 13-2 run for a 41-29 advantage.
Dolson then scored UConn's first seven points of the second half and assisted on the next basket by Kelly Faris - after a Dolson steal - as the Huskies led 50-33.
"We had to send a message to make sure Syracuse knew they weren't in the game," Dolson said of the start to the second half.
Syracuse, led by Brianna Butler's 11 points, dropped to 15-2, 3-1.
An example of the new-look Dolson, who is the best shape of her career and has established herself as one of the nation's dominant post players?
As a freshman starting against Stanford, Dolson played just 17 minutes due to fouls in a game that Stanford won 71-59 to break the Huskies' record 90-game winning streak. This season? Dolson had 10 points, 14 rebounds and defended Stanford preseason All-American Chiney Ogwumike as the Huskies won 61-35 over the then-top-ranked Cardinal.
"I don't think anyone comes to this program to just be here," Dolson said. "I think you come to become the best player you can be and do big things.
"I'm proud of the way I've handled myself, the way I've grown as a player. I'm just proud to have these girls around me when (the 1,000-point mark) happened."