There are days when playing the UConn women is the most futile endeavor in sports. On those days, the opponent is so overwhelmed, so out of its element, that the game seems over when the bus pulls up to the building.
For an example, we direct your attention to the World Vision Classic.
But until Monday, it was extremely rare for the Huskies to deliver this class of thumping to a team with a national pedigree, in a major conference and ranked in the Top 25.
Really, when was the last time you read a final score like this? No. 3 UConn 86, No. 24 North Carolina 35, before a crowd of 9,221 at Gampel Pavilion.
"They were rocking and rolling and we were a step slow," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said.
The largest loss in the history of the Tar Heels basketball program, men or women, wasn't exactly what ESPN2 anticipated. After all, the Tar Heels hadn't lost by more than 49 points since a rout by Virginia in 1990.
"This was impressive to see, for me and for the team," coach Geno Auriemma said.
The Huskies had six players in double-figures. Bria Hartley led UConn with 17 points; she also had eight assists and three steals. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 15 points and six rebounds, although shooting 3 of 13 from three. Tiffany Hayes had 13 points and seven rebounds. Caroline Doty and Stefanie Dolson had 10 points each.
On her 21st birthday, for which she was serenaded by the student section, Kelly Faris scored eight points with seven rebounds and five assists. Freshman Kiah Stokes, two days after her benching at Villanova, registered her first double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 14 minutes.
"I am pretty happy," Stokes said. "For me, this was a step forward, and I'm certain this is what the coaches wanted. They've been happy with my progression in practice and now I just need to build on it."
The Huskies (15-2) resume the Big East schedule Thursday against Cincinnati at Gampel Pavilion. Then the Huskies travel to Chicago to play DePaul on Saturday night.
For North Carolina (12-5), this third straight defeat was one they are best served to quickly forget. The committed 26 turnovers and had just four assists. They shot 23.2 percent from the floor and were 1 of 9 from three.
This long regular-season rivalry, played annually since 2004, three times featured a North Carolina team ranked in the top three. But it ended with a resounding thud for the Tar Heels, who have lost the past four games to UConn by an average of 37 points.
To be fair, this is not the Tar Heels team of the past. Injuries have played a major role in disrupting it, and last week they lost to ACC rival Clemson, which hadn't beaten a Top 25 team in 57 tries. Their starting lineup Monday was a new one.
"UConn is a great team, but I'm sorry we didn't give them a better game," Hatchell said. "We were definitely out of synch."
This was the kind of performance that had been played this year only on Auriemma's ultimate home floor, Dreamland. North Carolina stayed with UConn for a few minutes: The score was 11-6 with 16:39 to play in the first half before things got seriously out of hand.
"Coach always says there's no perfect game," Hartley said.
UConn rolled off a 15-point run to take a 26-6 lead with 11:33 to play. After a three by Candace Wood pulled North Carolina back within 33-14, UConn rolled off another 16 points to take a 49-14 lead with 1:41 remaining.
"Our pressure worked right away and all five starters had good chemistry and a lot of energy," Auriemma said. "All that stuff was really good to see because we have worked very hard. It was the kind of game we love to play in, both teams running up and down the floor."
The Huskies controlled every aspect. In the first half, which ended with them leading 51-16, the Huskies forced North Carolina into 17 turnovers. The Tar Heels shot 6 of 27 and had only three assists.
Meanwhile, UConn assisted on 15 of its first 20 shots and had nine steals. And the Huskies offense was perfectly spread between Mosqueda-Lewis (10), Hayes and Hartley (nine each).
"The last couple of games have been good," Faris said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun