WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)—Whether she’s starting or coming off the bench, freshman Breanna Stewart has proven to be a natural scorer for Connecticut.
Stewart scored a season-high 27 points and four teammates also reached double figures as No. 2 UConn defeated Hartford 102-45 on Saturday.
It was the fifth time Stewart has led the Huskies (10-0) in scoring this season. She also had a team-high seven rebounds in 25 minutes.
“I’m just going into the game just trying to play my game,” Stewart said. “I’m not trying to force shots or anything like that. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it.”
A pregame ceremony honored the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, with youth players from Newtown joining the teams on the court before a sellout crowd of 3,508.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. Kelly Faris had 18 points, Bria Hartley 15 and Stefanie Dolson 10 for UConn, which shot 62.3 percent.
Daphne Elliott led Hartford (8-3) with 10 points. The Hawks were without leading scorer Amber Bepko, who was injured.
“It’s unfortunate that Amber got hurt and wasn’t able to play today. Trying to play without your best player was difficult for Hartford,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Having said that, the way we shot the ball most of the day it was going to be hard for anyone to beat us.”
It was the first time the teams played on Hartford’s home court since Dec. 23, 1990. UConn has won all 13 meetings.
Stewart, who shot 9 of 13 from the field, set a team record for the most points after 10 games. She has 169, surpassing the previous mark held by Maya Moore (165).
The national high school player of the year last season, Stewart started her first eight games at UConn and averaged 15.1 points. In the past two, she has scored 27 and 21 off the bench.
UConn led 51-15 at halftime, shooting 63.3 percent in the opening 20 minutes with four players scoring in double figures, led by 15 points from Hartley. In their next game, the Huskies play top-ranked Stanford on Dec. 29 in California.
“That gym is going to be packed. It’s going to be loud. They’re going to be physical with us,” Faris said.
UConn displayed its superiority against Hartford early, taking a 25-7 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Mosqueda-Lewis accounted for nine of the points, making three 3-pointers in as many attempts.
The Huskies stretched the lead to 30-7, part of an 18-0 run, with 24 of those points on offensive possessions that resulted in three points. UConn made five 3-pointers and three other times a player made a basket as she was fouled and converted the free throw.
“There’s no better team that prepares you to play hard on every possession than UConn,” said Hartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti, who played for UConn. “Hopefully our kids learned from the experience.”
Hartford committed 21 of its 25 turnovers in the first half, several of them resulting in transition baskets for UConn. The Huskies scored 28 points off turnovers in the first half and held Hartford to 5-of-16 shooting from the field.
“I thought the majority of the first half Hartford had a hard time getting the shots they normally get against other teams. That’s a sign that our defense did what we wanted to do,” Auriemma said.
Before the game, members of the Newtown Girls Youth Basketball Association lined up with players from both teams on the court holding green signs that said “WE ARE SANDY HOOK. WE CHOOSE LOVE” and clutching teddy bears.
“It means a lot, just to see them out here and enjoying the game,” said Hartley, who received two teddy bears from players. “I know they really love watching us play and look up to us. It means a lot for us to go out there and play our best.”
There was moment of remembrance that included the ringing of a chime 26 times in memory of the 20 students and six adults who were killed in the shooting.
Coaches and their staffs, and courtside personnel, wore green ribbons, the school color at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Additionally, two large paintings of green ribbons with the white letters “SH” were on the court.