HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma had a long talk with guard Bria Hartley on Friday, trying to impress upon the freshman how important her play will be to the success of the Huskies.
Hartley got the message. She scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help the No. 2 Huskies defeat Louisville 78-55 on Saturday for their 71st consecutive home win.
Hartley hit 10 her 16 shots and had eight points during a 12-2 second-half run that broke open a close game. She also had eight rebounds. Maya Moore led the Huskies (16-1, 6-0 Big East) with 26 points.
"You want to go out and show coach that he can depend on me, that I can be a leader on the floor, work hard all the time," Hartley said.
Freshman Shoni Schimmel had 15 points and six assists for Louisville (12-7, 3-2), which forced 18 UConn turnovers, but also turned the ball over 18 times.
"The big thing is, we forced 18 turnovers, but we only got 14 points off them, so it really doesn't matter," said Louisville coach Jeff Walz. "If you're forcing turnovers and can't score off them, it defeats the purpose."
Connecticut played all but the first 46 seconds without guard Tiffany Hayes. The Huskies second-leading scorer left the game with a mild concussion after she collided with teammate Moore while going for a loose ball near midcourt.
The junior, who is averaging almost 16 points, tried to get up. But she could not get her balance and was helped from the floor.
"She was going for the ball and didn't see me, and I think her head hit my hip or somewhere hard around my midsection," Moore said. "And she didn't get back up kind of quickly, so I knew something had happened pretty serious."
The Cardinals had a tough time with UConn's pressing defense, and had more turnovers (14) than field goals (10) in the first half.
UConn turned the ball over eight times, but still led 28-18, before Moore picked up her third foul with just over 5 minutes left in the half. With Moore and Hayes out, Louisville cut the deficit to 31-26 at halftime.
At 39-34, Hartley stepped up, leading the Huskies on that 12-2 run in which the Huskies held the Cardinals to 1-for-9 shooting.
"I think she's starting to understand what her role is on this team and how consistent she has to be," Auriemma said. "I thought today was a great step forward."
UConn stretched the lead to 24 points from there.
Stefanie Dolson had 12 points and Kelly Feris added seven points and 12 rebounds for the Huskies.
This was the 11th meeting between the two schools and UConn's 10th consecutive win, a streak that includes the 76-54 win in the 2009 NCAA title game.
UConn hasn't lost in Storrs or Hartford since being beaten by Rutgers 55-47 in the 2007 Big East tournament championship game. The NCAA considers Big East and NCAA tournament games played at Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center as home games.
The Huskies play at No. 11 North Carolina on Monday. It wasn't immediately clear if Hayes would be able to make the trip. UConn officials said her symptoms were clearing by the end of the game and she would be reevaluated by the team doctor on Sunday.