Published November 20, 2014
Anne Donovan is trying to change the culture at Seton Hall.
She's seen modest gains over her first two years as coach.
"We've seen incremental improvements over last year," Donovan said. "The kids we have are here and competitive and understand what it's going to take to turn the program around. We started the season really strong, we've stumbled the last three games and this team has a lot of fight left."
It may take a while before she finds a way to end the Pirates' long drought against Connecticut. Seton Hall lost to the second-ranked Huskies 70-37 on Friday night for its 43rd loss in the last 44 meetings with UConn.
"Moving forward, we've got to recruit," Donovan said. "We have three post players and a walk-on. Recruiting is the name of the game, it's no secret. You got to recruit to compete in the Big East."
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Tiffany Hayes and Caroline Doty had 15 points apiece for Connecticut, which next faces No. 1 Baylor on Dec. 18.
The nation's top two teams met last season in Hartford and UConn came away with a one-point victory.
"I think we have a couple things we need to work on this week in practice," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We'll be ready by that date."
Even with the lopsided score, Donovan was proud of the strong support her team received from a spirited crowd. In the past, the Huskies would have their own cheering contingent in New Jersey that would drown out Pirates fans.
That wasn't the case Friday night, with a loud student section cheering on Seton Hall.
"We're really happy about that," Donovan said. "We've had better support from our own students. Overall our attendance has been up. Slowly getting it done here. It's a process, as we're working hard to build a program."
Bu the Huskies (9-0, 1-0) quickly jumped on the Pirates in the Big East opener for both schools. UConn hit four 3-pointers during the opening burst, and Kiah Stokes capped the run with a layup 7 minutes into the game.
"We have better offensive players than they do," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "For us it was getting the right people enough shots in the beginning. Our pressure got us some shots."
It took another minute before the Pirates (5-5, 0-1) got their first points — two free throws by Alexis Brown. Seton Hall's first basket didn't come until its 14th shot with 8:27 left in the first half when Brittany Morris converted a three-point play. That made it 30-5. The Pirates wouldn't get within 22 the rest of the game.
"The press was the difference, you can't prepare for Connecticut's pressure," Donovan said. "You can prepare with your own players, but it doesn't simulate what you see game time. The difference of the game after that point was he took the press off. We talked long and hard about taking care of the basketball. We didn't take care of that from the beginning to the end."
UConn opened the season with eight straight home games and ran through its opponents. The Huskies won by an average of 43 points, including a 30-point rout of No. 8 Texas A&M on Tuesday night.
Playing its first road game did give UConn a little trouble in the second half. After Bria Hartley's layup with 15:34 left made it 55-23, the Huskies went more than 9 minutes without a point as Seton Hall was able to cut the deficit to 23. Hartley finally ended the drought with a lay-in with 6:25 remaining and the Huskies cruised the rest of the way.
"There's no excuse for the offensive players we have to go without scoring, that's inexcusable," Auriemma said. "We're too good to do that. We're too good a team to throw it at the rim and run back."
After taking a few days off for exams, the Huskies will travel to Waco to face the Lady Bears before heading to the College of Charleston.
The Huskies have won 56 straight Big East regular-season games. It's the fourth longest conference streak ever, trailing Texas, which won 124 consecutive games in the Southwest Conference from 1981-1990. The Huskies have dominated the Pirates over the last 18 years, winning 43 of the last 44 meetings. The lone loss came on Jan. 5, 1994.
Jasmine Crew scored 12 points for Seton Hall.
"It felt good to have the students come out and support us," Crew said. "Hopefully they'll continue to do that."
The game featured the last two Olympic coaches. Donovan led the U.S. team to gold in the 2008 Beijing Games, while Auriemma will coach the Americans next year in London.
Doug Feinberg can be reached at http://twitter.com/dougfeinberg