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No. 1 UConn’s Defense Stifles Cincinnati

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati played stellar defense the first time the Bearcats played Connecticut and held the Huskies to their second lowest point total of the season.

In Saturday’s rematch, Connecticut wouldn’t let that happen again.

The Huskies (23-0, 10-0 American Athletic Conference) matched their December point total with almost 10 minutes left in the game en route to an 86-29 rout. Connecticut held the Bearcats (9-12, 2-8) scoreless for almost 11 and a half minutes and took a 30-point lead into halftime.

Cincinnati committed almost as many turnovers (24) as it scored points (29) and shot just 23.9 percent from the field against the Huskies.

“We played them already, so we knew exactly what we had to face,” Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott said. “We were hoping we could start making some shots early and getting some confidence. Our defense has been good all year, but our defense can only hold for so long when you’re not making shots.”

Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis each scored 17 points and Hartley added a career-high six steals for the Huskies (23-0, 10 American Athletic Conference), who jumped out to a 41-11 halftime lead and never looked back.

During an early 22-0 run, Connecticut held Cincinnati (9-12, 2-8) scoreless for 11 minutes and 22 seconds. In that span, the Bearcats missed 11 shots and turned the ball over nine times. The Bearcats broke their scoreless streak with 45 seconds left in the half as Connecticut headed into halftime up 41-11. Cincinnati ended the first half with just five field goals and 15 turnovers in their lowest-scoring half of the season.

The Bearcats sorely missed the presence of point guard and leading scorer Dayeesha Hollins, out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury.

“We had one point guard out there and she was a freshman,” Elliott said. “We were forcing Bianca (Quisenberry) to handle the ball against a swarm of defense that would give any guard in the country trouble. UConn is UConn — they’re an unbelievable defensive team, they’re going to pressure you, you’re going to make you play fast, they’re going to trap you.”

The Huskies’ quick passes and a balanced shooting attack kept the Bearcats defense off balance as Connecticut had 25 assists. Six Huskies got on the board before halftime and five finished in double figures.

Connecticut started the second half with another 10-2 run and led by as much as 58 points in the second half. The Huskies surpassed their point total from their last meeting with Cincinnati with nearly 10 minutes still left in the game, with Jefferson and Hartley on the bench.

Cincinnati’s Jeanise Randolph, Jasmine Whitfield and Alyesha Lovett led the Bearcats with eight points each.

The win was the Huskies’ 10th straight over Cincinnati and extended their current win streak to 29 games. Cincinnati has now lost two straight, and the Bearcats are 2-7 since their last meeting against Connecticut.

“We just played the No. 1 team in the nation and we have to build off of it and look for positives,” Randolph said. “There’s no more UConn on our schedule now, so we just need to continue to play because we have nothing to lose now. We really don’t.”

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