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Huskies grind out 70-49 win over Ohio State.

POSTED December 02, 2013
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

The UConn women improved to 9-0 with a 70-49 win over Ohio State in the final game of the Hall of Fame Classic.

SPRINGFIELD, MA: It goes back as far as most coaches of school age athletes can remember. Get kids out of their routines and they struggle.

Doesn't matter the age, grade or level, players are creatures of habit and when that habit is broken, things go a little of balance.

Even the top ranked UConn Huskies girls’ basketball team can fall into this trap and for a period of time on Sunday night in the final game of the Hall of Fame Classic, did just that.

Sure, they still won by 21 (70-49 over Ohio State) but the struggles were apparent from the start, a very slow start.

How slow you ask?

The UConn fans, who stand and cheer for their team until they score their first points every game, nearly had to stop for a water break as the Huskies took nearly two minutes to score their first points.

Not unheard of for most teams but for UConn, it was a sign of things to come.

"We played four games in five nights, took almost a week off and then played again," head coach Geno Auriemma said. "When you get out of your normal routine, it's sometimes hard to find a rhythm."

Add the Thanksgiving break into the mix and UConn and their head coach are happy school begins again Monday morning.

"We had to grind it out tonight," senior guard Bria Hartley (team high 17 points) said. "We're not satisfied with how we played tonight and we'll have to get back to practice and work it out."

Now mind you, the rest of the country is scratching their head at the thought of being in the position the Huskies find themselves in and why they may be worried about not beating teams by 50 every night.

Who would not want to be 9-0 with just seven scholarship players on the court most nights?

The rims at the Mass Mutual Center were not being kind to the Huskies from the start but Brianna Banks worked around a Buckeye zone that was taking away the middle by hitting a two key three pointers in the first half to spark her team.

Saniya Chong came off the bench to add a three ball of her own to help UConn start to get some separation from the visitors.

The Huskies would not go up by double-digits until a Stefanie Dolson layup made it a 20-10 game with under ten to play in the first half.

Banks added another three ball and followed it with a runner in the lane to push the lead out to a more familiar 14 points at 29-15.

Still, the Huskies played a solid game on the defensive end, holding the Buckeyes to just 49 points while winning the battle of the boards by a 45-39 margin.

UConn blocked 10 shots, six by Breanna Stewart alone who struggled at times with her shot but made up for it on the defensive end with those blocks.

Dolson tagged on another double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds but committed eight turnovers.

In fact, the Huskies turned the ball over 16 times while handing out just 13 assists, the first time that had happened all year.

"I just got caught up in the speed of the game," Dolson explained afterwards. "I have to know what my pace is and keep myself under control out there."

As she has been all year, Hartley was the best player on the court on Sunday night.

"When Bria gets into the open floor and does what she does, we are at our best," Auriemma said. "There's nobody in the country who does it better."

Hartley being healthy and aggressive has been huge for the Huskies as they await the return of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck.

UConn is off until Thursday when they host UC-Davis at the XL Center.

The routine begins again Monday but with the light schedule during the month of December, the Huskies may find themselves having to grind out a few more games in this long run that is the regular season.

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