STORRS, Conn. – North Carolina center Chay Shegog would like to think the Tar Heels have nowhere to go but up after suffering their worst loss ever.
Shegog hit just two of her 12 shots and finished with four points in the 86-35 blowout loss to the No. 3 Huskies, the third consecutive defeat for North Carolina, which dropped from 22 to 24 in the Top 25 this week.
"I don't think we're discouraged," she said. "We're ready to go back and we're looking forward to our next game. We've just got to watch film and learn from everything."
Coach Sylvia Hatchell said she didn't want to make any excuses for the rout, but noted that injuries have kept key players, including Laura Broomfield, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and freshman Megan Buckland on the bench for long stretches this season.
"Tonight was the first time that group had played together that was out there," she said "We were definitely out of synch."
Broomfield played with protective goggles after suffering an eye injury against Maryland on Jan. 8. Ruffin-Pratt missed the first 13 games of the season with right shoulder injury and Buckland is out for the season after tearing a right knee ligament
"We haven't built the chemistry that other teams have built," said Shegog. "But now that we have some people back, we can build from here."
It was the Huskies' fifth straight win over the Tar Heels with those victories coming by an average of 32 points. North Carolina won five of the first seven meetings.
"There were some times we played them when they were just way bigger, more athletic," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "They took advantage of those things and had a lot more offensive players back then. I think that's the difference I see right now. I see they don't have as many offensive players as they used to have."
UConn had six players in double figures, led by Bria Hartley's 17 points. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 15 and Kiah Stokes had 11 points and 11 rebounds in 14 minutes.
It only took 8½ minutes for the Huskies (15-2) to blow this game wide open. Leading 11-6, UConn scored the next 15 points including five by Mosqueda-Lewis and five by Tiffany Hayes to take command. Hayes' layup with 11:34 left in the half made it 26-6. North Carolina got within 16, but the Huskies used a 16-0 run, that saw six different players score, to put the game away.
"It was really good to see us come out and start the game the way we did," Auriemma said. "We were able to get out and run a little bit and our pressure worked right away."
North Carolina hit a new low against UConn, being embarrassed on national television. The Tar Heels were held to their lowest offensive output ever, easily surpassing the previous record of 44 set in 1987 against N.C. State and equaled in 2000 against Georgia Tech.
"You don't expect going into a game where you're going to play UNC, you just don't expect to come out with such a gap, so it's a surprise," said Kelly Faris, who celebrated her 21st birthday.
The 51-point loss topped the 49-point defeat against Virginia in 1990.
"I thought we'd give them a better game," Hatchell said. "I'm disappointed we didn't give them a better game. We didn't start out well tonight, UConn is a tremendous team."
Hatchell, fourth on the career wins list with 871, remained one victory short of 600 with North Carolina.
With the Huskies leading 51-16 at the break, the only suspense left for the second half was whether they would reach the century mark and whether they would best their biggest victory ever against a ranked opponent — a 53-point win over Pittsburgh in 2009.
UConn could have easily surpassed both milestones but Auriemma played his bench liberally in the second half. The only Huskies player who didn't see action was freshman guard Brianna Banks. She suffered a head injury in practice Sunday.
"She slipped and fell down," Auriemma said. "In this day you want to be careful with these things."