Charles’ 32 points helps UConn rout Vermont 104-65
STORRS, Conn. (AP)—Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma was worried that his team might be a bit rusty after not playing in 12 days.
It took about four minutes for the unbeaten Huskies to show they were as sharp as ever.
Tina Charles scored 32 points and Renee Montgomery added 19—all in the first half—to help the top-seeded Huskies rout No. 16 seed Vermont 104-65 on Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
“The way the game started, Renee and Tina pretty much took care of any doubts that I might have where our timing and rhythm offensively was,” Auriemma said. “To score that many points and have Maya just play OK I think is a great sign for us.”
The Huskies (34-0) entered the NCAAs undefeated for the fourth time in school history. UConn went on to win the national championship in 1995 and 2002. In 1996-97, the Huskies lost to Tennessee in the regional final.
UConn, which is seeking its sixth national title, will face Florida in the second round Tuesday night. The Huskies had hoped to face the Owls to have a chance to play against former UConn assistant coach Tonya Cardoza, who spent the previous 14 seasons with the Huskies.
“They are really good. I haven’t had much of a chance to prepare for them yet,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “They are the best team in the country and proven that with their unblemished record.”
It was the sixth time that Connecticut scored over 100 points in an NCAA tournament game and first since beating Long Island 101-29 in 2001.
“We went into the game and had one game plan,” Auriemma said. “We wanted to make it a 100-point game. I didn’t care if it was 100-90.”
Charles was 13-for-14 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds. She was just two points off her career high when she left for good with 13:34 left in the game.
“It’s really important to set the tone,” Charles said. “We came out with great intensity. We didn’t play for a whole week and everyone was anxious to play and we played hard.”
As has been the case for most of the season, UConn put this game away by the half.
Leading by two, the Huskies went on a 17-4 run over the next 4 minutes. Charles had six points and Montgomery five during the spurt, and her 3-pointer made it 22-7 with 13:34 left in the half.
Vermont scored the next six points before UConn ran off 13 straight to seal it. The Huskies hadn’t played since routing Louisville in the Big East tournament final on March 10.
Courtnay Pilypaitis led the Catamounts (21-12) with 24 points.
“Well, they’re a very good team and it will help our program,” Pilypaitis said. “You realize what you need to be at the top of the nation in women’s basketball. I was happy I was able to play UConn in the first round and hopefully they’ll be the champions so we can say we got beat up by the champions.”
The victory gave UConn coach Geno Auriemma his 66th in the NCAA tournament, moving him past Dean Smith into third place on the career list for men’s and women’s coaches. He trails only Pat Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski.
The Huskies have won by an average of 31 points this season. They led by 34 at the half on Sunday as Montgomery, Maya Moore, and Charles were too much for the Catamounts.
Charles had 18 points at the break to complement Montgomery’s five 3-pointers. The Huskies shot a season-best 74 percent (23-for-31) from the field by the break to take a 56-22 lead.
“It’s really important for ourselves,” Montgomery said. “We know we hadn’t played in a while. We knew they were going to come in and play aggressive. They were jelled and knew how to play well. We wanted to get the game going our way as soon as possible.”
It was the 13th time this season that UConn led by at least 20 at the half.
Moore had 11 at intermission and her monster block ignited a fast break that led to Montgomery’s 3-pointer. The senior guard posed after it swished through the net.
The lead ballooned to 47 in the second half.
Vermont was making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2000, and is winless in five appearances. It was the Catamounts’ third trip to the Hartford area in the last three weeks. They won the America East title that was played at the University of Hartford last week, and also played the Hawks in early March.