HARTFORD, Conn. – South Florida stayed with the No. 3 team in the nation for more than a half before falling 77-62 at Connecticut, becoming the 97th consecutive visitor to leave the Huskies home floor with a loss.
Caitlin Rowe scored 20 points, including four 3-pointers, for the Bulls (12-10, 4-4 Big East) and Inga Orekhova hit five 3's. Jasmine Wynne added 13 points for South Florida, which trailed by just a point, 38-37, two minutes into the second half.
"We feel like we can play with any team in the country," Wynne said. "We wish we could've had the win. There's no such thing as a moral victory, but we came out and played our hardest."
Tiffany Hayes had 33 points and 10 rebounds for UConn (19-2, 8-1). Stefanie Dolson added 22 points and 18 rebounds.
Hayes has 68 points combined in the last two games — the most ever by a Husky in back-to-back contests. It was her 10th consecutive game in double figures and 18th this season.
"I definitely want to be that player that people can look up to and say, 'OK, she's going to get it done for us,'" said Hayes, who dedicated her performance to former UConn football player Jasper Howard, a friend who was stabbed to death on campus in October, 2009. It was his birthday Saturday.
The win was the 790th in UConn coach Geno Auriemma's career.
Connecticut used a 17-5 second-half run to take control of the game. A three-point play by Hayes capped the burst and turned a 1-point game into a 55-42 advantage with just under 12 minutes to play.
"(You) try to avoid the run when it comes," Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said. "The 8-0, the 10-2, the 16-4 runs that turn a three-to-four point game into 20. I thought we always stayed within striking distance. We avoided that run, that knockout punch."
UConn outrebounded USF 53-28, had 20 offensive boards and outscored the Bulls 32-16 in the paint.
"The difference in the game was the points in the paint and how well UConn rebounded," Fernandez said. "They absolutely exposed us on the glass."
Rose hit a 3-pointer to cut UConn's lead to 64-53 with 4 1/2 minutes left, but another 3-pointer from Hayes stretched the lead back out and gave her 32 points.
She scored her 33rd point a short time later on a free throw after a technical foul was called on Fernandez. It was a physical game with 34 fouls — and UConn's Kelly Faris and South Florida's Tiffany Conner both fouled out.
Dolson had eight of UConn's first 10 points as the Huskies worked to get the ball inside early.
But UConn had a hard time shaking the Bulls. Orekhova, who had 13 of her points in the first half, scored seven straight to turn a 14-10 deficit into a 17-14 South Florida lead. A 3-pointer became a four-point play when she was fouled by Kelly Faris, and she followed that up with another long 3.
UConn responded with a 12-0 run and led by nine points before South Florida responded again. Another Orekhova 3-pointer keyed an 11-2 Bulls run that stretched into the second half and cuts UConn's lead to 36-35.
"I really like this group," said Fernandez. "I think this group competes."
Hayes and Dolson made 10 of their 14 shots in the first half. The rest of the Huskies were 4 of 16.
Hayes moved into 13th place on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,589 points, passing Swin Cash (1,583).
Connecticut has not lost at home since the finals of the 2007 Big East tournament, and has won 59 consecutive regular-season Big East games at home.
The Huskies also have won 172 straight games against unranked teams. But their next game is on the road against a ranked foe as they travel to Durham, N.C., to face No. 5 Duke on Monday night.
The loss wraps up a tough stretch for South Florida, which has faced a ranked opponent five times in its last seven games. The Bulls lost to Georgetown, Louisville and Rutgers during the stretch, but beat then-ranked DePaul and unranked Seton Hall. The Bulls head home to face West Virginia on Wednesday.