Pittsburgh struggles against No. 4 UConn 86-37

Pittsburgh women's coach Agnus Berenato said there's never a good time to face Connecticut.

And the worst time might be after the Huskies suffer a loss.

The Panthers had to face a No. 4 UConn team that had just been stunned at home by St. John's.

Brianna Kiesel led Pitt with 15 points, but the Panthers made just three first-half field goals in an 86-37 loss Tuesday night.

It was Pitt's (8-19, 0-14 Big East) 13th straight loss.

"We took their best shots," Berenato said. "I thought it was two halves. In the first half, we were shell-shocked. We were docile. I don't really know who we were and I didn't know who that team was."

That team fell victim to UConn's 29-4 run to start the game.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 23 points and Kelly Faris added a game-high 10 rebounds for the Huskies (25-3, 12-2 Big East).

Ashlee Anderson added 10 points for Pitt.

Pitt trailed 48-10 at halftime, but in the locker room, Berenato told her team to ignore the score.

Kiesel said that allowed the Panthers to calm down and play a better second half.

"We didn't handle the press as well as I thought we should have," Kiesel said. "When we came out in the second half, we really came out with a spark. Even though we were still down, we could still play and leave it all out on the court."

Opponents haven't fared well for nearly two decades when they've faced Connecticut following a loss. The Huskies haven't lost back-to-back games since losing to Providence and Louisville in March 1993.

They've gone 683 games without consecutive losses and are 48-0 following a loss in that time.

They've been dominant following losses this season. After losing to Baylor on Dec. 18, the Huskies beat College of Charleston 72-24. After losing to Notre Dame on Jan. 7, they beat Providence 96-35.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma had emphasized mental toughness in the practices following Saturday's loss, one that snapped the Huskies' record 99-game home winning streak.

Precision, he said, will be important if the Huskies want to match the success of their past.

"Sometimes you can get away with it, just on talent," he said. "I don't know that the players we have this year match the talent we've had in the past. Maybe in the past you could get away with it, but this team can't. It's a matter of playing to your ability every single minute of every day, or you're going to get beat."

UConn made short work of the young Panthers.

The Huskies smothered Pitt on defense, forcing 21 turnovers and dominating the Panthers in the post.

Pitt scored just eight points in the paint, yet fared no better from the outside. Kiesel hit the Panthers' first 3-pointer with 8:09 left in the game. They had missed their previous 10 attempts.

Field goals were hard to come by all night for Pitt. The three first-half field goals were a season low.

Marquel Davis scored Pitt's first basket to tie the game at 2, but the Panthers didn't score from the floor again until Davis hit a jumper with 6:18 left in the half.

By then, the Huskies were up 31-8.

UConn spent the second half working on different game situations, allowing Pitt to do the same. That didn't go unnoticed by Berenato.

"Geno does right by the student-athlete," she said. "He always remembers where he came from and it's always about the student athlete. His players are going to play hard. But what he will do is work on situations, half-court zones, half-court offenses. Geno is the ultimate educator, and as an educator, you have to make it worthwhile for the kids."

"We could have been like Notre Dame, come out here and run the score up and try to score 120 and shoot 3s the whole game," Auriemma said, alluding to Notre Dame's 120-44 win over Pitt on Jan. 17.

"That's not the point. The point is to work on your game and make sure you've got guys getting better and I think they are."

Connecticut dominated everywhere. The Huskies outrebounded Pitt 38-24, picked up 13 steals and 27 assists and made 35 of 57 shots from the floor, including eight of 15 from beyond the arc.

Mosqueda-Lewis made nine of 12 shots for her seventh game of at least 20 points this season.