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Blue Devils no problem for Huskies.

POSTED December 30, 2014
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

HARTFORD:  Well, thank goodness the 13,514 went home with some chicken wings.

A day after the men failed to reach the magic 82 points number, the UConn women made sure the faithful had another meal set up, thanks to a resounding 83-52 win over Duke.

For the second straight game, Mariah Jefferson lit up the score sheet with 18 points, including three of four from three-point land.

UConn shook off a turnover plagued first half in which they threw the ball away 11 times and allowed the Blue Devils to hang around.

They unveiled a suffocating full court press in the opening half that led to a dozen giveaways by Duke and limited their ability to set up in the front court, a goal of the coaches coming in.

"We knew how big they were," head coach Geno Auriemma said. "But we also knew they were not as quick as us."

UConn used a nasty defensive effort to go on a 17-2 run seven minutes in after trailing 6-2 at the first television break, but did not finish Duke off until the second half, something that bothered Auriemma.

"I take the players to a Broadway Show when we go to New York (this weekend)," Auriemma said. "I try to stress to them that the performers they are watching have to give 100 percent effort each and every time fans come and pay money to see them play. We still don't do that the entire game."

It's a nice problem to have, winning by 31 points but not playing the entire game but the coach has a point.

Against some teams, especially come NCAA Tournament time, playing 35 of 40 minutes just won't get it done.

On the plus side, and there's always many, five different players scored in double figures, the Huskies held Duke to a season low in points scored and rebounds and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis moved into second place all time in three points made when she sank four.

KML is now just three behind Diana Taurasi's school record of 318 and may hit it before the New Year hits when the Huskies play at ECU on Wednesday night.

For the Blue Devils, who came in ranked #10 in the country, their head coach was not pleased with their effort. 

"It was a pathetic display by us," Duke Head coach Joanne McCallie said. "Especially in terms of hustle and intangibles. It's not always about shot making, although we would have like to have made more, it's about representing with hustle as a team and we did not do that."

Elizabeth Williams, one of the top post players in the country, scored a career high 15 points but had to work overtime to get each and every one of them.

Breanna Stewart, who struggled at times on Monday night with six turnovers but 14 points, has playing against Williams since the two were 14-years old and knows her strengths.

"She is a strong physical post player and she showed that tonight when she finished some of her plays," Stewart said. "She's going to do well at whatever she does."

Jefferson, who has been a player possessed over the last two games, is playing fast but under control, something she had not been doing earlier in the season.

"Mariah is doing so many good things," Stewart said. "She's not hesitant on the three-point shot, she's looking to drive, whether it's a layup or if she dishes off."

Duke actually battled back in the first half, thanks to a 14-3 run that knotted things at 22 with just over seven minutes left in the half.

The Huskies responded with an 11-4 run to end the half up 33-26.

In the second half, it was Jefferson who ignited the offensive with consecutive three pointers that stretched the lead into double digits.

UConn would go on to outscore the Blue Devils by a 50-26 margin in the second half for their 10th win against one loss.

Duke lost to #1 South Carolina by a point at the buzzer earlier this season and today got beat by 31 to the #2 ranked team in the land.

What's the difference between the two top teams?

"UConn just works harder than anybody else," McCallie said. "They got every loose ball. The just play harder."

The two teams meet on February 9th in Connecticut.

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