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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) – Geno Auriemma even has to wonder at times if No. 1 Connecticut is really as great as its ever been or if the opposition is just that bad.
It was a little of both against inexperienced and overwhelmed Villanova.
Maya Moore scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help the Huskies thump Villanova 74-35 on Saturday for its 58th straight double-digit victory.
“I don’t know whether it’s just bad teams, bad players, bad offenses or we’re just that good defensively,” Auriemma said. “I have no idea. Really, no idea.”
UConn’s coach watched from the bench as his defense forced 17 turnovers and limited the Wildcats to a miserable 23 percent shooting.
Tina Charles scored 14 points for the Huskies, who have the second-longest winning streak in women’s basketball history. They are 12 wins shy of the NCAA and school record in 2001-03.
That streak was snapped at 70 by the Wildcats in the 2003 Big East championship game. Villanova followed up that win with another victory over the Huskies the next season.
This one was no contest. The Huskies (19-0, 6-0 Big East) went old school and rode the train to Philadelphia, then stayed on track for a perfect season.
UConn is 19-0 for the third straight season and is a lock to start next week ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll for a record-tying 36th straight week.
“We play not for the score, it’s about how we play,” Moore said. “Every minute you’re out there on the court, you have the opportunity to make beautiful basketball. As long as we’re out there executing making beautiful basketball, we’re happy.”
Maria Getty led the overmatched Wildcats (11-7, 0-5) with 11 points. Villanova also was the 58th straight win for UConn in its record winning streak.
The Wildcats actually led 1-0. And they only trailed 18-8.
Then the UConn Express shifted into another gear and left Villanova just waiting for this game to end.
UConn did it all deep into the first half except hit a 3-pointer. Caroline Doty kicked off the long-range party when her first 3 made it 33-8. The Moore hit one. Meghan Gardler followed with another to make it 39-8.
Moore hit UConn’s fourth 3 just before halftime for a 45-12 lead. Moore outscored Villanova by five points heading into the break. The brief 3-point spurt also gave the Huskies more 3s (4) than Villanova had total field goals (3).
“I wasn’t shocked we scored 11 at halfime,” Wildcats coach Harry Perretta said. “We’re just not a very good offensive team.”
Auriemma, from Norristown, Pa., had no reason to vent in yet another rout.
Blowouts have become the norm for the Huskies during their winning streak. Each of their 58 victories have come by double digits. Even the large pro-Huskies faithful that came to the Pavilion were lulled into silence for most of this one.
They did cheer for Gardler when the senior forward was introduced for the first start of her career. Gardler, the daughter of Auriemma’s high school coach at nearby Bishop Kenrick, started over Tiffany Hayes.
Gardler scored six points and was moved by the tribute. She said about 120 fans came to watch her final game in the area. They probably weren’t the ones who told Gardler in high school she would never make it at UConn.
“That’s typical of this area. That’s just growing up here,” Auriemma said. “If you’re not any good, they tell you you’re no good. If you’re really good, they tell you you’re no good. It’s just growing up in Philly.”
Nothing went right for the Wildcats. At one point, they broke UConn’s fullcourt press and got the ball to Sarah Jones. Jones promptly took a step backward and was whistled for a backcourt violation. Kalana Greene, who scored 10 points, made the Wildcats pay with an uncontested layup for a 30-8 lead.
Jones traveled on the next possession and got an earful from Perretta: “Just pass the ball to Shannon (Elliott)!” She could have passed the ball to Scottie Reynolds and it wouldn’t have mattered. Of course, UConn capitalized on Doty’s 3.
“The kids did what I asked them to do,” Perretta said. “It didn’t show up on the scoreboard, obviously.”
The Wildcats shot under 20 percent for most of the game. Moore and Charles were a combined 16 for 24 from the field.