HARTFORD — Kelly Faris is as impervious to pain as she is to personal recognition. That was quite clear Sunday at the XL Center as UConn began play in its final Big East tournament, beating DePaul, 94-61.
Last Monday at Notre Dame, she pushed off on her left foot in the final seconds of the first half, and some of her ligaments pushed back.
A sprained foot to an athlete can be what a nail is to a tire. First it shocks, then it slows, and then it stops you. But not Faris — a spear couldn't stop her during the postseason of her senior season. She played 14 minutes, all that was necessary.
"It felt good," Faris said. "Each day it has felt a little better."
But UConn knows what it's going to get from Faris every night. She played 53 minutes at Notre Dame on Monday and the Huskies still lost in triple overtime.
To win this tournament will require contributions and consistency from the remainder of her teammates, especially if Tuesday rolls around and Notre Dame reappears in the championship game.
Like freshman point guard Moriah Jefferson. UConn needed a kick-start, and she was a double shot of espresso. What's the point? The Huskies have finally found their next point guard.
Her spark over 23 minutes and the energy of others paced UConn's efficient win over DePaul in the quarterfinals.
"We played a really good basketball game," coach Geno Auriemma said. "It was well-played by many of our players, individually and as a team."
Freshman Breanna Stewart, who was 1 of 7 from the floor at Notre Dame, led the Huskies with 21 points, shooting 9-for-12 in 26 minutes.
"I had an inkling she would play better because she's practicing better than she has in some time," Auriemma said. "I saw the same things today. It carried over. That's a good sign."
Stefanie Dolson had 16 points (8 of 14) with seven rebounds, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 16 points (4 of 8 from three) with nine rebounds.
Mosqueda-Lewis now has 100 three-pointers this season, seven short of Wendy Davis' team record set in 1991-92. Bria Hartley and Jefferson had 12 points each.
Megan Rogowski led DePaul with 15 points.
The Huskies never trailed and took a 49-23 lead at the half. Dolson scored 14 points (7 of 13) and Mosqueda-Lewis added 11 with three three-pointers.
But what distinguished the 20 minutes from what happened in South Bend was the way the Huskies cared for the ball.
After committing 35 turnovers against the Irish, a team averaging just 14.4 for the season put a padlock on the door. The Huskies did not make their first boo-boo with the ball until 7:06 to play in the first half, when Faris threw a pass that Morgan Tuck simply could not handle. It was one of just two miscues in the half, eight in the game.
"I think we really needed to focus on rebounding," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "And right from the start, we picked up the intensity on the glass."
UConn enjoyed a 47-33 rebounding advantage and scored 46 of its 94 points in the paint.
Auriemma also set change in motion at the start by giving Jefferson her first start at the point in place of Caroline Doty and Morgan Tuck, who had started the last two games.
Jefferson had averaged only 7.0 minutes against UConn's seven toughest opponents this season, just four last Monday at Notre Dame.
"I thought it was a good matchup for her," Auriemma said. "We wanted to disrupt their offense full-court by putting pressure on them. But that's the easy answer; she can put pressure on the ball. At some point, she needs to play and she needs to play well."
Jefferson brought speed and movement in 23 minutes Sunday and even scored back-to-back baskets that helped the Huskies kick their lead up to 43-21.
"I need to be ready and available to my team when it needs me, and I didn't feel that was the case [at Notre Dame]," Jefferson said. "I wasn't prepared. So I decided to do everything I could to be ready the next time they needed me."
She also went flying side-first into the Big East's television desk, making contact a moment before play-by-play man Bob Picozzi could stop her with his outstretched hand. She got up and the show went on.
"I just saw the ball and went for it," she said.
Jefferson wasn't the only surprise contributor. Stewart and sophomore Kiah Stokes had solid first-half performances. Stokes had four rebounds in six minutes and Stewart scored five in 12.
The Blue Demons, who move on to the reconfigured Big East next season, played better in the second half and stayed even with the Huskies with better three-point shooting.
"This is a special UConn group," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "It really is."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun