Defending champion UConn routs Hartford in season opener

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut center Stefanie Dolson is hard enough to guard in the post.

If the 6-foot-5 senior continues hitting from 3-point range, it's going to be tough to keep the Huskies from winning a record ninth national championship.

Dolson hit seven of her eight shots from the floor, including both her attempts from behind the arc, helping top-ranked UConn to a season-opening 89-34 rout of in-state rival Hartford.

"When Stef makes people guard her on the perimeter, it makes us that much harder to guard," said Breanna Stewart, who added 14 points for the Huskies. "You have to pick and choose. Stef will make the 3s, make the jump shots and that will make somebody else open in the lane."

There were plenty of open Huskies on Saturday. Moriah Jefferson scored a career-high 17 points to go along with five assists and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis chipped in with 12 points. Ten Huskies made found their way into the scoring column.

Deanna Mayza led Hartford with eight points.

The competition gets much stiffer very quickly for Connecticut, which hosts No. 3 Stanford on Monday and has road games against No. 8 Maryland and No. 13 Penn State in the next eight days.

"I don't see why you wouldn't want to get that happening now," said Jefferson. "We want to come out and play the best teams. This is like an NCAA week for us."

Connecticut certainly seemed in tournament form. The Huskies hit their first six shots, and used an 18-0 to go up 27-9 and take control of the game. UConn held the Hawks without a point for almost 8½ minutes during that spurt.

A fast-break layup by Jefferson with 2½ minutes to go in the first half gave the Huskies their first 30 point lead at 47-16 and UConn led 55-17 at the break.

Dolson had all of her points by intermission. She and the 6-4 Stewart combined for 28 points, taking turns posting up and setting up for jumpers.

"It just helps keep the floor spaced out and make sure we can get paint points," Dolson said.

The Huskies also played tough defense. Hartford shot just 27 percent from the field and turned the ball over 22 times.

A Jefferson layup less than a minute into the second half put UConn up by 40 points, and one with just under 4 minutes left in the game gave the Huskies an 84-34 lead.

The Huskies won by more than 20 points 29 times last season and by 30 or more 23 times, including a 68-point win over Idaho in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

It was the 18th consecutive time UConn has won its opening game, and the 21st consecutive win in a home opener. The Huskies haven't lost the first game of a season since falling to Louisiana Tech in 1995.

Freshman guard Saniya Chong had eight points.

UConn guard Brianna Banks, playing for the first time since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a Feb. 2 win at St. John's, played 22 minutes and had three points.

Hartford was playing without two key players. Forward Katie Roth, projected to be the Hawks best front-line player, and guard Mallory Shickora both were lost in the preseason with season-ending knee injuries.

The Hawks, who won 21 games in 2012-13 and are picked to finish second in the America East this season, started three freshmen against the Huskies.

"I've never started three freshmen before, I don't think I've ever started more than one," said coach Jen Rizzotti. "It's a dream come true. You start your freshman year, your first game of the year. You're playing UConn and you get to start the game."

The Huskies are now 297-14 while playing as the nation's top-ranked team. They know the next win will be a bit tougher to get.