— This first night of the UConn women's basketball season Friday differed greatly from First Night, the extended pep rally preceding it two weeks ago.
This was about business. For the defending national champion, the business at hand was accelerating pace in preparation of next Saturday's season opener against Hartford.
And yes, it was business as usual. The Huskies took a 45-point lead in the first half and waltzed to a 101-35 win over Gannon, a Division II Final Four team, before 7,201.
"Every one of these [exhibition games] is exactly the same," coach Geno Auriemma said. "Some just take a little longer to get going."
Sophomore Breanna Stewart led the Huskies with 21 points, with 13 rebounds and four assists.
Junior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 15 of her 20 points in just 14 first-half minutes, making 6 of 7 from the floor with two three-pointers. Moriah Jefferson had 13 points and was fine after rolling her right ankle late in the second half. Bria Hartley added 12.
Mosqueda-Lewis was really into it. In the second half, UConn leading by 50-something, she flew over press row after a loose ball, knocking over former Courant sportswriter Ken Davis and his Diet Coke.
"It's just one of those things coach tries to instill in us in practice," said Mosqueda-Lewis. "Whatever you do in practice, you do in games. It doesn't matter who you are playing."
Davis, covering the event for The Associated Press, was fine. His chair was not. It was carried away to wherever UConn takes mangled furniture.
Meanwhile, Gannon returned to Erie, Pa., to continue its preparation for Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play.
The Huskies shot 21 of 39 in the first half and held a significant rebounding advantage, as you might suspect against an opponent with no player taller than 6-2.
This was an important night for two Huskies in particular: freshman Saniya Chong and junior Brianna Banks.
For Chong, UConn's only scholarship freshman, it was a debut.
She took the floor for the first time with 12 minutes, 33 seconds to play in the first half and did not score in her five minutes.
"I got the first-half jitters out the best I could," said Chong, who ended with three points in 14 minutes. "The second half was a little better. There was more focus."
For Banks, who injured her right ACL last February, it was a return.
When Banks stepped to the floor for the first time, with 16:33 to play in the first half, it marked her first game action since her injury at St. John's. She immediately hit the floor.
"Was that a good feeling? Not really," said Banks, laughing. "I popped right back up. Nothing hurt."
Banks played 21 minutes and had six points and six rebounds.
"When you are on the court once you are cleared, you are faced with an entirely new set of obstacles because things just aren't what they were before you were injured," said UConn assistant Shea Ralph, who had five knee injuries. "You have to figure things out."
Gannon appeared — on paper — to be one of the best teams UConn would play in the preseason in years. The Lady Knights played in last season's Division II Final Four and returned all five starters from a team that won 31 games last season.
In fact, Gannon has prepared for the season by defeating a pair of Division I opponents, Kent State and Buffalo.
Huskies No. 1 Again In AP Poll
The Huskies were the unanimous choice as the preseason No. 1 team in the AP poll. They received all 35 votes. Duke, Stanford, Tennessee and Louisville complete the Top 5. The Huskies are ranked No. 1 in the AP preseason poll for the first time since 2010-11, the last time they were the defending national champions. The Huskies have been ranked No. 1 in the AP preseason poll nine times (1995-96, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2003-04, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11). … A Class of 2016 recruit, guard Kelly Jekot from Enola, Pa., was at the game Friday on an unofficial visit. Jekot wasn't invited to USA Basketball's U-16 training camp earlier this year but paid her own way and made it to the final cut. She has already been offered by Maryland, St. Joseph's (Pa.), Vanderbilt and Villanova. Reportedly, UConn will receive an official visit next week from Kia Nurse, a 6-0 senior guard from Hamilton, Ontario. … Guard Haley Gorecki of Palatine, Ill., in the Class of 2015, is scheduled to arrive on Saturday.Copyright © 2015, CT Now