By JOHN ALTAVILLA, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
9:53 PM EST, December 29, 2012
PALO ALTO, Calif. —
Back home in snowy Connecticut on Saturday, a measuring stick had one connotation. Consult your local meteorologist for the specifics.
Out in California, where the nation's No. 1 team lived for the last six weeks, the only measuring stick No. 2 UConn was interested in was the one evaluating its competitiveness in the heat.
"I wasn't sure how we'd react to this kind of game, on the road, at this point of the season," Geno Auriemma said.
The Huskies didn't score a lot, shooting just 37.5 percent, but didn't need to do too much more. They dominated the Cardinal, in historic fashion, for just about every beat of its 61-35 win at the Maples Pavilion.
Not only was this UConn's first win ever at Maples — after three defeats — it ended Stanford's 82-game home winning streak and probably cost the Cardinal the top ranking in both polls.
The Huskies were led by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who scored 19 points with six rebounds. Stefanie Dolson added 10 points and 14 rebounds. Bria Hartley and Kelly Faris each scored 10 points.
Junior Chiney Ogwumike led Stanford (11-1) with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but it was a tough night for the preseason All-American, who was hounded by a variety of committed defenders who held her to 6 for 22 from the field.
"Chris Dailey and Marisa Moseley [UConn assistants] emphasized to us what Chiney can do and what she'd likely try to do," Dolson said. "I had a lot of information going into the game. … I just tried to make her take hard shots, the kind she maybe didn't want to take."
Stanford was just 11 of 57 from the field (19.3 percent). It was the Cardinal's worst shooting percentage in program history, the lowest since UConn held Stanford to 26.5 in the 2010 national championship game in San Antonio.
"This doesn't surprise me at all," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We are a team that prides itself on defense. We practice it for hours, coach harps on it every day. And when you have a player like Kelly Faris going 110 percent at every moment leading you, I don't think there is any way you can't stop a team."
Stanford's 11 field goals were also a program low. And its 26-point loss was its first of 20 or at home since 1986.
"We discussed the intensity level that you need to have when you play on the road," head coach Geno Auriemma said. "If you play good defense, you have a chance to win. For this 40 minutes, our defensive intensity was really, really good."
"UConn came out on mission," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Mission accomplished."
Come Monday, when UConn (11-0) plays at Oregon (2-9), the Huskies are likely to be the nation's new No. 1.
In a small way, this win helped erase the disappointment UConn's upperclassmen have harbored for two years since the Cardinal, on its home floor, ended the Huskies' 90-game winning streak. Consider that UConn's defensive effort left Stanford in the same heap as Charleston (39-point loss), Wake Forest (34) and Marist (39), all hardly Final Four contenders.
UConn had a 40-17 lead with 15:36 to play before the Cardinal's first sustained offensive rally, built around a technical on Auriemma and two three-pointers by Bonnie Samuelson. Those points keyed a 12-4 run that cut the lead to 44-29.
"By that point, it was pretty hard to come back," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "And we tried to come back with a little run of ourselves."
Stanford, which had been No. 1 since a two-point win over Baylor on Nov. 16, scored the game's first basket 10 seconds in. It marked the first time UConn had trailed since a 31-second span Dec. 6 against Penn State.
"I liked the first shot of the game," VanDerveer said. "Not so much after that."
But that lasted just 1:32 before Mosqueda-Lewis' three gave UConn the lead and started the Cardinal on its swoon.
Stanford was just 5 of 33 from the field in the first half and was outscored 26-8 after a Toni Kokenis foul shot tied the score 5-5.
The Cardinal offensive ineptitude was startling, and induced by UConn's tenacious, suffocating defense. Most of Stanford's baskets were follow-ups — as opposed to those created by its own initiative. UConn simply would not allow it the space to move.
The poster child of the day's frustration was Ogwumike, its preseason All-American.
"It just shows you how much more work I need to do on reading defenses," Ogwumike said.
Before the game, Auriemma suggested just sticking Kelly Faris on Ogwumike defensively seemed like a good idea, but might create problems in other areas.
As it turned out, Faris, UConn's top defender, spent very little time on Ogwumike. Instead, the job fell to an assembly line of others; Hartley, Dolson and Breanna Stewart.
The result was striking. Although she led the Cardinal with eight first-half points, including its last eight in the half over the final 16:30, she made only 3 of 13 shots. Her teammates were 2 of 20 in the half.
Meanwhile, UConn wasn't shooting great, either, making just 10 of 28 in the half. But they got points from all over the floor, including nine from Stewart that helped them slowly grow the lead to 20 with 2:53 to play in the half.
And UConn handled itself well on the boards. Dolson, whose disappointing game here two years ago was symbolic scene of that night, had 11 first-half rebounds, nine defensively, to help control second-chance shots for Stanford.
Dolson picked up her third foul with 17:42 to play in the game, but stayed in with UConn holding a 19-point lead (34-15). She would the basket that bumped the lead to 23 a few moments later.
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