With the move to the American Athletic Conference, UConn Women's Basketball had to seriously raise the level of competition on its non-conference schedule. After already playing four ranked teams so far in this young season, they had the No. 5 team in the country on the schedule tonight at Madison Square Garden in the Maggie Dixon Classic.
Maryland (11-1) kept the game competitive into the final minute but the Huskies still came out on top--defeating their fifth top-20 opponent--on Monday night, 83-73. UConn (10-0) has won 47 in a row, tying their third longest winning streak.
"You aren't going to beat us unless you play us," Geno Auriemma said right after the game on ESPN2.
This game featured two of the top offenses in the country, yet the defenses kept it close early on. UConn uncharacteristically turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter. Even when the Huskies were able to get something going on offense, Maryland looked like they took some plays from Jim Calhoun by quickly scoring off made baskets in transition.
Give credit to the Terrapins, as they were within striking distance throughout the game. They never backed down and led at points in the first three quarters, getting within four points in the final minute of the game. UConn did not take their first double-digit lead until the fourth quarter. But it was UConn who forced 22 turnovers by the end.
"We knew it was going to be a struggle," Auriemma said. "They are a way better team than the team we faced in the Final Four last year. I they know they are good."
The Huskies struggled with the size of Maryland and their ability to spread the floor and hit threes.
Statistically, the game was fairly even as both teams shot 47% from the field. The only major difference in the game was from the foul line, where UConn finished 17-of-22 while Maryland was 3-of-8.
Soniya Chong came off the bench and did her best impression of Tyler Olander against Maryland in New York City by hitting a three to effectively put the game out of reach with 45-seconds left in the game.
"She played great tonight," Auriemma said. "She gave us great energy on offense and defense."
Breanna Stewart led the Huskies in scoring with 23 points. She moved into 6th place, passing Diana Taurasi on the UConn scoring list.
"Stewart did not practice at all last week, so she could have been fatigued," Auriemma said. "But the way she passed the ball tonight with seven assists (was great)."
Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck each finished with 17 points and six assists. Tuck also grabbed eight rebounds and became the 41st player to score 1,000 points at UConn. She is the third player on the team to do so along with Stewart and Jefferson. Kia Nurse added 11 points.
Maryland's Brionna Jones finished with 24 points and gave the Huskies fits all night. She helped lead a number of runs which Maryland had to close in on the Huskies' lead.
UConn opens up conference play at Cincinnati on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on SNY. The Huskies have yet to lose an American Athletic Conference game.