No Breanna Stewart, no problem.
The top-ranked Huskies struggled at times offensively during the first half but played their most impressive defensive game of the season, defeating the LSU Tigers 86-40 on Monday night at the XL Center.
Stewart was held out of the game as a precaution due to a minor ankle sprain suffered during practice last week. Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson started in her place, making her first career start.
Senior point guard Moriah Jefferson filled the scoring void, notching 17 points and adding seven assists to lead five Huskies in double figures. Morgan Tuck and Katie Lou Samuelson scored 14 points each while Gabby Williams added 13 points off the bench. Kia Nurse scored nine of her 11 points during a first quarter which ended with UConn up 18-6.
At times, the Huskies appeared lost on offense, though that may be understandable for a team playing without its best player and leading scorer. Geno Auriemma was not pleased heading in the half with UConn ahead 39-14. To him, the Huskies were out of sync despite holding a 25-point lead. They would pass the ball around the perimeter instead of going inside-out against the Tigers 2-3 zone. Not having Stewart to make plays made it often tough to watch.
Nurse and Jefferson frustrated LSU defensively, stealing passes that ended with UConn lay-ups on the other end of the court. In addition, the size of the freshmen Samuelson and Napheessa Collier deflected and blocked many shots. The Huskies had nine blocks in the game and forced 28 turnovers.
This was a very young LSU (6-6) team which struggled, only shooting 29.6% for the game. They only connected on one three-pointer out of six tries for the game.
The Huskies looked much better in the second half, and Williams provided a much-needed spark off the bench.
The Huskies have won their last 46 games, tying Tennessee for 5th-longest all-time win streak. They have won 93 out of their last 94 games dating back to March 2013. UConn has beaten 14 straight against SEC opponents and improves to 7-1 against LSU.
UConn heads into the Christmas holiday still dealing with a bit of an injury bug and things could be a lot worse.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, Gabby Williams was going up for a defensive rebound but LSU's Alikah Bethel decided to grab Williams' leg in mid-air and throw her down to the ground. Williams laid on the ground for several seconds as play continued. During the media timeout, the officials went to the replay and called a fragrant one against Bethel for the WWE move.
In addition, Samuelson rolled her ankle late in the game going in for a lay-up. She continued playing with a limp.
Soniya Chong continues to be hampered with a leg injury and Natalie Butler is still yet to make her UConn debut due to a thumb injury.
Hopefully, the Huskies will be healthier next time out with a matchup against No. 6 Maryland (11-0) at the Maggie Dixon Classic coming next Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 8:30 p.m.