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UConn routs star-struck Idaho

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published March 24. 2013 4:00AM
Tim Martin/The Day
UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis drives past Idaho's Connie Ballestero (35) for two points during the top-ranked Huskies' 105-37 win over the No. 16 Vandals at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday.

Storrs - They once led by 74 points. Hard to fathom, even by the UConn women's standards. A 25-possession game.

"You think about coming in to play UConn," affable Idaho coach Jon Newlee said Saturday, "and seeing them up close and in person, we certainly got the full show."

Indeed. The top-seeded Huskies scored the game's first 15 points and inhaled No. 16 Idaho 105-37 before 4,627 friends and relatives at Gampel Pavilion, the smallest crowd at home for UConn since March 6, 1994 (4,165).

UConn (30-4) won its 30th game for an NCAA-record eighth straight season.

The Huskies play No. 8 Vanderbilt in the second round Monday night at Gampel Pavilion (7 p.m., ESPN2). The last time Connecticut failed to make the Sweet 16 was 20 years ago in 1993.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led Connecticut with 22 points. Freshmen Morgan Tuck had 18 and Moriah Jefferson 16. Kiah Stokes had 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Bria Hartley had 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Stefanie Dolson had 10 points in 15 minutes.

The romance for the ultimate underdog disappeared quickly.

"They're a great basketball team," Newlee said. "I can't believe Notre Dame beat them three times. I can't believe anybody could beat them three times. They're my pick to win it all.

"They're so long and so quick," Newlee said. "It's something we hadn't seen this year, without a doubt. You can't replicate that in practice. You can't replicate that in the Western Athletic Conference."

UConn's largest lead (96-22, 74 points) would have tied an NCAA record for largest margin of victory. Idaho made five 3-pointers in the last three minutes to avoid ignominy. "It's nice not to be in the record books for something like that," Idaho's Stacey Barr said.

If nothing else, the game offered perspective in place of competition. What UConn players might view as routine, Idaho's players see as a thrill. Example: a charter flight to a road game. Most of UConn's flights are via charter.

"Our kids have never been on a charter flight before. We travel like crazy in the WAC. This was the shortest trip in duration we had: four and a half hours," Newlee said. "Try going from Moscow, Idaho, to Ruston, La. Bus to Spokane (Wash.) for an hour and a half, fly to Salt Lake City for an hour and a half, lay over, fly two hours to Dallas and ride a bus four hours to Ruston.

"The kids understand their hard work got them a charter flight and recognize that hard work will pay off for them."

UConn impressed Idaho's players with effort as much as execution.

"Coach talked about how hard you need to go every single play," Idaho junior Alyssa Charlton said. "UConn does that every single play. We've developed a new standard for the rest of our team."

The Huskies played without freshman Breanna Stewart who tweaked her calf in practice Friday. Auriemma said the injury is not serious and that Stewart could have played Saturday.

Vanderbilt (21-11) advanced with a 60-54 win over No. 9 St. Joseph. Vandy is coached by Melanie Balcomb, who was the coach at Xavier when the Musketeers nearly upset UConn in the 1999 tournament.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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