CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Connecticut bounced back from a rare regular season loss with a 48-point win on Wednesday night. But the No. 2 Huskies struggled to shoot, turned the ball over and generally expected a lot more after losing just their second regular season game in four years to No. 1 Baylor.
"Come out of a big loss like that and that's how we react? That's not a good sign for us," junior guard Kelly Faris said.
The Huskies (10-1) befuddled the College of Charleston in their 72-24 win. The Cougars (2-8) made just seven of their 49 shots (14 percent), turned the ball over 24 times and went 19 minutes without a field goal. Charleston's 24 points were just four away from the best defensive effort ever by the Huskies.
But Connecticut's offense didn't look crisp. They shot just 44 percent, committed 14 turnovers and had their lowest scoring first half of the season with just 27 points.
"It's an ongoing process. Three days ago we were beating the No. 1 team in the county with four minutes left in the game," Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said. "Now we're trying to find out how we get 11 new players in here because none of them are motivated."
The Huskies were coming off a 66-61 loss to top-ranked Baylor on Sunday and now haven't lost back-to-back games since March 1993 -- a streak of 665 games that started two seasons before Auriemma won his first of seven national titles with the Huskies.
The second longest active streak belongs to Duke, which has played 142 consecutive games without back-to-back losses according to STATS LLC.
"The secret is in the scheduling. Never schedule a really good team after a really good team. So if things go bad, you have something to fall back on," Auriemma said. "That is one record I can't explain. There's nothing we talk about. After we lose a game we don't say, by the way, we don't lose two games in a row."
The hangover from the Baylor loss seemed to hang around at the start of this game. Connecticut missed its first nine shots, finally getting on the board when Faris hit a 3-pointer with 15:30 left in the first half. The Huskies never did trail, because Charleston didn't score its first points until Christy Hewitt hit a layup that made it 10-2 Connecticut with 11:35 to go in the opening half.
The Huskies held the Cougars scoreless for another eight-minute stretch in the first half, taking a 27-6 lead on Faris' second 3-pointer of the half with just over two minutes to go. They led 27-8 at the break, but it still wasn't the Huskies' best defensive first half this season -- they held Farleigh-Dickenson to five points earlier this year.
"We're pretty good at masking things. We can hide just about anything. We can hide it against any team we play, even at Baylor," Auriemma said.
Connecticut kept pouring it on in the second half, scoring the first 18 points of the half before Megan Fischer's 3-pointer cut the Huskies lead to 45-11 with 11:45 to go and ended Charleston's 19-minute streak without a field goal.
Jazz Green's 3-pointer with 1:46 to go cut Charleston's deficit to 66-23 and assured the Cougars wouldn't go down into Connecticut history as the opponent who scored the least against the Huskies. That still belongs to Quinnipiac, who scored just 20 against Connecticut in December 1998.
Green scored eight points, including back-to-back 3s late in the second half, while Fischer led Charleston with seven points.
Staying close to the Huskies in the first half brought Charleston some confidence, even with the team's poor shooting night, junior forward Cathryn Hardy said.
"Watching them on TV against Baylor the other night, I thought they were going to be a lot quicker," Hardy said.
Auriemma agreed to come to the College of Charleston in part to spread the popularity of women's basketball. The game brought 3,868 people to TD Arena, more than tripling the previous best attendance for a Cougars women's game. He's done this before. Last year, Connecticut played at Pacific before swinging to Stanford, and in 2009, the Huskies visited Holy Cross.
Lots of Huskies blue could be seen in the arena, but there were also a few high school teams in their warm-up suits. Charleston played its part by honoring some of the region's best women's basketball players like Katrina McClain and Kalana Greene.
The game featured a couple of the giants of coaching in women's basketball with more than 1,300 wins between them. Charleston coach Nancy Wilson brought the Cougars to three AIAW national title games before the NCAA started offering its own titles for women sports, and the Cougars honored those teams before tip-off.
Auriemma also did a friend of Wilson's a favor, meeting before the game a 90-year-old Connecticut fan who moved to a retirement home in South Carolina.
"He was so cute," Wilson said. "He looked like any 10-year-old who had just seen Santa Claus come."
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