SPRINGFIELD — Idle time is no friend to coaches, no matter how accustomed they've become to it or how successful they've handled it.
Geno Auriemma has dealt with it rather triumphantly for 30 years, but he knows how rust can accumulate when you don't regularly stoke the fire.
After racing through the first eight games of the season in 15 days, No. 1 UConn had a week off before Sunday's meeting with Ohio State on the final day of the Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Challenge at the Mass Mutual Center.
You could tell the difference, at least until the Huskies got rolling in the first half. Perhaps the sheen didn't glimmer as brightly as usual, but it still lit the way to the Huskies' 70-49 win over the Buckeyes.
Bria Hartley, who scored 17 points with four steals and four assists, led UConn (9-0).
Stefanie Dolson added 15 points, 13 rebounds and eight turnovers, which put her perilously close to the kind of triple-double you don't write home about. Two weeks ago against Oregon, she registered the good kind, the first for UConn since 1988.
"I don't think we're going to talk about that [the turnovers]," Dolson said with a smile.
"But it was all me. I got too caught up in the speed of the game. I can't go that fast. There's a middle speed for me that works really well."
Brianna Banks had 12 points and a career-high seven rebounds.
Ohio State (6-3) was paced by Raven Ferguson, who scored all of her 14 points in the second half. Ameryst Alston scored 11 and Martina Ellerbe added 10.
Counting last weekend's blitz through Boston University, Monmouth and St. Bonaventure in the first stage of this tournament, the cumulative score for the four games was 354-172.
Next is UC-Davis (2-4) Thursday at the XL Center, which will be followed by another 12-day exam break before No. 2 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Dec. 17.
In total, UConn plays only five games in December, ending with the American Athletic Conference opener at home against Cincinnati. And, really, who knows how many of those 18 games will provide unscheduled rest stops along the road to the NCAA Tournament?
Auriemma has been impressed with his team's focus through these frantic first weeks and was happy for it to rest after last Sunday's win. In fact, most of them were at his house on Thanksgiving.
And aside from feeding them, he's been applying additional care by keeping practices as short as possible.
"We did some things in practice that were as good, if not better, than anything we've done all year long," Auriemma said. "I was the most surprised person in the building when those first 10 to 15 minutes [Sunday] proved so hard."
Although the sledding was not as smooth as it was last weekend, when the Huskies won their three games by an average of nearly 54 points, they handled the Buckeyes with relative ease.
The Buckeyes led 5-4 and then were within 10-8 before the game began to get away. UConn used to runs – one small, one large – to take a 35-17 lead at the half.
"This will help us, remind us that we still have a lot of stuff left to work out," Hartley said. "We're not satisfied with way we started the game at all. We'll grind it out in practice knowing that we need to start games better."
A 7-0 run started by Saniya Chong's three-pointer gave UConn its first 10-point lead (20-10). All seven of Chong's shots were threes. She made two and ended with six points. But Ohio State quickly answered with five straight points.
There was no answering what came next. Banks scored seven straight to get UConn moving on 15-2 spurt over the final 4:23 of the half. The Huskies made seven of their final 10 shots to keep things moving along.
"I'm just doing whatever I can to help keep the energy of the team high," Banks said. Banks was 3-for-5 for from three.
Dolson led the Huskies with 10 first-half points. Banks had nine and Hartley chipped in seven.
Ohio State ended the first half shooting just 7 of 26 and the game with only 19 field goals (30.6 percent). But the bigger problem was in the paint, where UConn outscored the Buckeyes, 40-6.
Ellerbe and Alston were 6-for-13 in the first half and combined for 15 points. But UConn held the rest of the team to 1-for-13 from the field – and that was a basket by guard Cait Craft in the final seconds.