CHICAGO – Never mind that DePaul has nine straight NCAA appearances and is a regular in the Top 25. Nights like this remind coach Doug Bruno just how far his program has to go.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis tied a season high with 25 points and No. 3 Connecticut breezed to its fifth straight win, beating No. 21 DePaul 88-44 on Saturday.
The Huskies (17-2, 6-1 Big East) had won their previous four by an average of 44.5 points, and this one never was in doubt, either. They jumped out to a big lead in the opening minutes and snapped DePaul's 28-game home winning streak.
"I've said all along here over the last couple of weeks that there are four teams that have a chance to win the national championship, and that's Baylor, Notre Dame, UConn and Stanford," Bruno said.
The Blue Demons? They're on the next tier. And on Saturday, they weren't in Connecticut's league.
"We've been fighting for a lot of years to get up into the echelon of this group," Bruno said. "We're just not there yet."
Saturday's game was a harsh reminder.
Mosqueda-Lewis set the tone, scoring 18 points as the Huskies built a 53-23 halftime lead. The freshman hit 5 of 7 3-point attempts and grabbed seven rebounds.
Tiffany Hayes scored in double digits for the eighth straight game, finishing with 14 points.
The Huskies outshot the Blue Demons (15-5, 3-3) 54.7 percent to 27.8 percent overall. They were 9 for 19 from long range, compared to 8 of 26 for the Blue Demons, and outrebounded DePaul 46-22. They also forced DePaul into 23 turnovers, resulting in 33 points.
"We work so hard at practice on keeping our hands in the passing lanes, tipping passes, and someone else getting a steal and just going down and scoring," said Bria Hartley, who had six of the Huskies' 18 steals.
Bruno was quick to praise Connecticut's defense, saying, "They have players who can play on their spots. They can switch on your screens, so screens aren't necessarily going to get you open. They do a good job of identifying what your strengths are and taking them away."
DePaul got 18 points from Brittany Hrynko, but she also committed nine turnovers. Anna Martin, who came in averaging a team-high 19.2 points, missed all six shots and did not score, with the Huskies' Kelly Faris doing all she could to make her miserable.
The result was its first home loss since a rout by Connecticut on Feb. 10, 2010.
The rout came a day after the announcement that Bruno will serve as a U.S. Olympic assistant to Auriemma, along with Washington Mystics assistant Jennifer Gillom and Atlanta Dream head coach Marynell Meadors. All four posed for a photo before the opening tip.
Once the game started, Connecticut wasted no time taking control.
Coming off lopsided wins over No. 24 North Carolina and Cincinnati, the Huskies scored the game's first 11 points while building a 16-2 lead and sending DePaul to its third loss in four games.
Whether they were shooting from inside or long range, the Huskies simply weren't missing.
They outscored DePaul 18-6 in the paint and 18-1 off turnovers while hitting 16 of 30 shots, including 6 of 11 from downtown, in the half. Most important, they contained Martin, who's been playing a bigger role on offense since star Keisha Hampton had season-ending surgery on her right knee.
"That's not the same DePaul team that started the season," Auriemma said. "So you kind of put yourself in their shoes. Offense is hard to come by since Keisha got hurt. ... Kelly is tough enough to play against when you've got two or three options, but when you're pretty much the single most important option, it's difficult."