HARTFORD - Itâ€™s been a season the UConn womenâ€™s basketball team hasnâ€™t seen in a while with the way it has had to grind out a number of its wins.
But in what figured to be the toughest grind of their AAC schedule on Sunday, the Huskies were off to the races.
UConn scored the first eight points in 85 seconds and never looked back in routing Central Florida 93-57 at the XL Center to take sole possession of first place in the league.
â€śWe ran the floor pretty well, which we hadnâ€™t done in a while,â€ť UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. â€śOur transition game was good because we had people to throw the ball to up ahead. We kind of lost some of that the last couple of weeks.â€ť
UCF entered the game leading the league in scoring defense at 52.7 points per game. The Huskies passed that number in 16:45 on a Napheesa Collier layup and the Knights left the building second in the league in scoring defense.
It was 61-36 at halftime on 71.0 percent shooting from the floor and UCF got no closer as UConn scored the first eight points of the third quarter.
â€śWe just tried to come out with as much energy and aggression as we could,â€ť Collier said. â€śI thought we did a really good job of that today.â€ť
UConn won the rebounding battle 43-31 and had an 11-4 advantage in second-chance points. The Huskies also got the game to be played at their preferred pace and had a 27-6 bulge in fast-break points.
â€śThe game plan for Central Florida is usually to control the tempo of the game with their defense and then control the tempo of the game with their offense,â€ť Auriemma said. â€śSo they do it at both ends of the floor. What is different about them is they are trying to force you to turn it over and get 20 steals per game, but then they donâ€™t hurry up on offense and score 90 like most teams that press like that would want to. That doesnâ€™t fit together. Thatâ€™s why it is different.
â€śIf you can get up on a team like that, it forces them to play faster. So our whole approach today was to try to get a shot early in the possession. Maybe they were surprised that we pressed them, because not a lot of teams do that, but I thought it was the right thing to do.â€ť
Collier paced the Huskies (18-1 overall, 7-0 AAC) with 23 points, nine rebounds, four steals, and three blocked shots. Megan Walker had her second double-double in four games with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Crystal Dangerfield (17 points, nine assists) and Katie Lou Samuelson (15 points, all in the first half) were also in double figures.
UConn now leads the AAC in scoring offense and scoring defense.
â€śCoach has been really challenging us all year and especially leading up to this game that we need to have more aggression and more energy especially from the get-go,â€ť Collier said. â€śI think we just decided we were going to do that today. That is the same mindset we need to have every game.â€ť
UCF (17-3, 6-1) will get a second shot at UConn on Feb. 17 when the Huskies visit CFE Arena in Orlando.