Geno Auriemma does not need a lantern to see light at the end of the tunnel. He uses a calendar. When January turns to February on Friday, UConn's coach wants to make sure that his Huskies are ready to go where the sun shines in April.
That would be the Final Four in New Orleans.
"You start to pick things up a little more," Auriemma said. "All of sudden it will be March. You can see it coming. You can see things coming."
Like the steamroller that passed through Fifth Third Arena on Saturday. The No. 3 Huskies (18-1, 5-1 Big East) destroyed Cincinnati 67-31 for their sixth straight win since losing to Notre Dame on Jan. 5.
Beating the Bearcats, now winless in the conference (0-6), was more or less a foregone conclusion. Cincinnati has never beaten UConn and now it has had eight tries.
Even though Auriemma adores Jamelle Elliott, the Bearcats coach and former Husky luminary, business is business.
"We just wanted to make sure we didn't give up any back-door layups," Elliott said. "We talked before the game about small victories. I don't think we gave up a single one."
And what was most important to the Huskies on Saturday was that business was conducted with the same efficiency that UConn showed in the second half against Duke.
"When you play that well, to want to be able to build on it, think that every game you play from this point will be just like that one was. We'd love to have that kind of mind-set," Auriemma said.
Stefanie Dolson led UConn with 15 points (7 of 10). Breanna Stewart added 10. And Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had eight points and nine rebounds.
Alyesha Lovett led Cincinnati with nine points.
UConn played well, but not spectacularly. But it didn't need to. This was a disaster for Cincinnati, at least after the first 53 seconds, during which it was a marvel.
The Bearcats scored the first two baskets on their first two shots to take a 4-0 lead. This was significant because the Huskies had trailed for only 22 minutes in their first 18 games.
The problem was that the lead lasted for just 1:14. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis sank a three to make it 6-4. And by the end of the first half, UConn was leading, 41-9. The single-digit was the lowest point output against the Huskies in any half this season.
Cincinnati scored only five points in the final 19 minutes and made only one of its last 22 shots in the half. They missed all seven three-point attempts, were outrebounded 30-13 and were generally submissive in every other facet.
Meanwhile, Auriemma had all 11 players available to play, albeit with their respective aches and pains. And he used most of them against the Bearcats, who have won just twice since Dec. 15. And he used all but Heather Buck in the first half.
Dolson scored 11 of UConn's first 17 points, most off inside moves, but the first three on a banked three-pointer that opened UConn's scoring. Mosqueda-Lewis had eight points and seven rebounds in the half.
The Huskies struggled a bit from the field, making only 18 of their first 45 shots in the first 24 minutes. They missed 13 of their first 18 three-pointers. But the Bearcats had bigger problems even finding enough space to shoot.
In that second half Monday against Duke, Auriemma basically relied on six players. And they steamrollered the Blue Devils over the final 20 minutes, 47-19, to turn a two-point thriller into a 30-point belly laugh.
Led by Faris, the Huskies took over the flow and floored Duke with crisp offense and tenacious, suffocating defense. Auriemma wanted to see that repeated on Saturday.
"There were some things that went on in that second half [against Duke] that could convince the players of who they really are and cause them to ask why they would want to be anything else," Auriemma said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun