Geno Auriemma is challenging his top-ranked Huskies with a tough early season schedule.
So far it's paid off.
Bria Hartley had 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists to help No. 1 Connecticut beat No. 3 Stanford 76-57 on Monday night.
It won't get much easier for the Huskies as they have to travel to No. 8 Maryland on Friday before visiting 13th-ranked Penn State on Sunday. It's the first time that UConn has played three Top 25 teams in a calendar week in the regular season since the Huskies opened 1998-99 playing Duke, Arkansas and UCLA in a five-day stretch.
"It seems like these three games are not exactly teams that are going to let you do what you want to do. It's difficult. Maybe it's supposed to be difficult," Auriemma said. "Last year was very easy at the beginning. We went down won by a bunch and everything was going smoothly. This one's not going to go smoothly. This one is hard."
It's already taken its toll with an injury to All-America forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. She went down trying for a rebound early in the second half. She landed awkwardly on her right elbow and was down screaming in pain for a few minutes before being helped to the locker room.
Auriemma wasn't sure how badly his star was hurt and hopes she'll be available for the road trip.
"They are just going to keep evaluating her (Tuesday) and see how she responds," Auriemma said. "They really don't know anything right now. She landed with her palm on the floor then when her arm bent her elbow hit the floor. There are two separate things she's trying to figure out."
The injury didn't slow down the Huskies, who were in the middle of a 22-6 run that spanned the halves.
Morgan Tuck, her replacement, scored eight straight points, including two 3-pointers, to make it 53-32 with 13:19 left. Stanford couldn't get closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Here are five takeaways from the early season showdown:
DEPTH: Auriemma got huge contributions from his bench with the play of Kiah Stokes, Tuck and freshman Saniya Chong. The three were instrumental in helping the Huskies come away with the victory after preseason All-American Breanna Stewart was only able to play four minutes in first half because of foul trouble and Mosqueda-Lewis got hurt.
Stokes had 10 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
"Kiah played the best game she's played since she's been at Connecticut," Auriemma said. "She was unbelievably good in just about every area. I hope that's the beginning of something that changes our team tremendously."
FINDING HELP: Stanford didn't get much help on offense for Amber Orrange and Chiney Ogwumike. Orrange scored a career-high 22 points and Ogwumike had 16 points and 13 rebounds. The rest of the team hit just seven baskets.
"I think this kind of let our team know we're 20 points away," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "How do you make that up. We gave up too many 'O' boards for baskets. We sent them to free throw line for no reason. We need to do little things correctly and focus on that for the rest of the season."
BAROMETER: VanDerveer used the game as a chance to see where her team stood early in the season. Despite the 19-point loss she was pleased with her team's effort.
"We play Connecticut with no illusions. This is a tough place to play and a tough team," the Hall of Fame coach said. "We got better and better as the game went on and a game like this right now is helpful for us."
STUCK ON 895: With the loss, VanDerveer remained five victories short of becoming the fifth coach to reach 900. She's trying to join Pat Summitt, Sylvia Hatchell, C. Vivian Stringer and Jody Conradt. She most likely will get the milestone during Thanksgiving weekend when the Cardinal play in a tournament in Mexico.
CELEBRATION: UConn closed out last season's eighth national championship by unveiling a banner before the game. Auriemma also autographed a ladder used to cut down the nets in New Orleans last season that will be auctioned off for a UConn scholarship fund.
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