Huskies hammer Heels
By Aaron Beard
Associated PressCHAPEL HILL ó Geno Auriemma isn’t interested in talking about the gap between No. 1 Connecticut and the rest of women’s college basketball.
He might not have much of a choice given the way the Huskies dismantled No. 2 North Carolina on Monday.Renee Montgomery scored 21 points to help the Huskies beat the previously unbeaten Tar Heels 88-58, handing UNC its worst loss in five years.
“I told the players in the locker room that the only gap I’m interested in is the one that exists between when we’re playing great and when we’re playing poorly,” Auriemma said. “If that gap keeps narrowing, then I’ll be happy.”
Maya Moore added 19 points and 12 rebounds for Connecticut (18-0). It built a double-digit lead early in the game and led 46-30 at the break, then increased the margin against a deeper and supposedly more athletic opponent.
Auriemma had told his team to focus on defense and rebounding over offense. While UConn shot 47 percent, the Huskies controlled the game by claiming a 53-32 advantage on the boards and grabbing 21 offensive rebounds ó several coming as the Tar Heels (17-1) tried to get back in the game midway through the second half.
By the end, Connecticut had made UNC look just as helpless as everyone else has against the Huskies this year, including third-ranked Oklahoma ó which lost 106-78 in Storrs in November.
“Carolina’s really good,” Auriemma said. “There aren’t going to be a whole lot of teams that beat them. We just played really, really, really great basketball tonight.”
UConn, which hasn’t played a game closer than 11 points all season, ended the Tar Heels’ 31-game home winning streak and handed UNC its first nonconference home loss since it fell to Oklahoma in January 2001, a span of 76 games.
It was North Carolina’s worst loss since it dropped a 97-63 decision at Duke in February 2003.When asked what it would take for someone to beat the Huskies, coach Sylvia Hatchell quipped, “Why don’t you tell me?”
Italee Lucas scored 15 points to lead North Carolina, and Rashanda McCants added 13.
“They came into our house and showed us how to play basketball,” Hatchell said. “I wish we could’ve given them a better game.
“They compete hard, and they are extremely physical. This game was much, much more physical than any game we’ve played this year. And I think it bothered us; it got to us. We didn’t go rebound with them. But this is the way a game is going to be when you get into the NCAA and play for a national championship.”
North Carolina was playing in a 1-vs-2 game for the third time in four seasons and in front of a school-record crowd of 12,722 for a women’s home game.
The Tar Heels never found any kind of offensive rhythm, shooting 37 percent and missing 16 of 20 attempts from 3-point range.
As UConn pulled away, several Tar Heels could only manage a stunned expression as they looked back at Hatchell on the sideline.