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UConn beats Providence 87-50 as Auriemma reaches milestone

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David Butler II

Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma shouts from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Providence at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Storrs, Conn. (David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP)

STORRS, Conn. – UConn has been able to play only seven games this season because of pandemic-related schedule changes, and that has put career milestones in perspective for coach Geno Auriemma.

Freshman Paige Bueckers scored 23 points and No. 3 UConn overcame a sluggish start to rout Providence 87-50 on Saturday to give Auriemma his 1,098th win. That ties the late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt for the second most wins in Division I women’s basketball history behind Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer (1,104).

It also was the 1,000th consecutive game for the Huskies without back-to-back losses, a streak that dates to 1993.

“Right now the only number that matters to me is 13," Auriemma said. “We've got to get to 13 games so that we can qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The other stuff, I would like to think that if you've done something for 37 years, whatever, that you're going to have some milestones and if you're fortunate enough you have some pretty important milestones."

Aubrey Griffin added a season-high 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds off the bench for the Huskies (7-0, 6-0 Big East).

The Huskies showed the rust of playing for the first time in 11 days, going without a point for almost four minutes. They trailed 7-1 midway through the first quarter, prompting Auriemma to sub out his starters, with the exception of Bueckers.

Anna Makurat hit a 3-pointer that gave the Huskies their first lead at 13-12 and UConn led just 19-18 after the first quarter. Makurat had nine points, all of them from behind the arc.

The Huskies outscored Providence 68-32 from there, including 27-11 in the second quarter. That gave UConn a 46-29 lead at the half.

“When the new group came in, we just tried to pick up the energy," Bueckers said. “We told each other that it all starts with energy on the defensive end and then it makes it easier on the offense.”

Tennessee transfer Evina Westbrook finished with 13 points for UConn and Olivia Nelson-Ododa added 11.

Kyra Spiwak and Alyssa Geary each had 10 points to lead Providence (5-7, 3-4). Mary Baskerville, the Friars’ leading scorer at 14 points per game, spent much of the game in foul trouble and finished with eight points.

“I was proud of how our team handled themselves when Mary had to sit down early with foul trouble,” Providence coach Jim Crowley said. “Obviously we can create a little more when she’s on the floor, and we stopped going inside. She played two minutes in the first quarter, yet we were within a point after 10 minutes of play.”

SENDING A MESSAGE

UConn junior Christyn Williams, who came in averaging 17 points a game, was among those subbed out after UConn’s slow start and didn’t see action for the rest of the first half. She finished without a point, playing only 14 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies dominated underneath, as they have all season. They outrebounded Providence 42-20 and outscored the Friars 44-18 in the paint.

Providence: The Friars had been holding other teams to just 60.5 points per game. UConn eclipsed that mark on a 3-pointer by Makurat in the third quarter.

HE SAID IT

“It's hard to believe we're even talking about basketball this week, when you think of what we just witnessed," Auriemma said, referring to the riot at the U.S. Capitol. “People talk about: ‘We really need sports because it brings the country together, it galvanizes people. It gives us something to do during these tough times, these hard times.' But does it really? I don’t know. You'd like to think that it does, but I don't know."

UP NEXT

Providence: The Friars are scheduled to travel to Pennsylvania for a game at Villanova on Wednesday.

UConn: The Huskies were expected to face Xavier on Wednesday, but the Musketeers were forced to suspend basketball activities because of COVID-19. The Big East shuffled things up and Seton Hall now is scheduled to come up to Gampel Pavilion.

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25