HARTFORD — Since becoming Pittsburgh's coach in 2003, Agnus Berenato has driven the Big East women's basketball welcome wagon from town to town.
It is not unusual for her to begin postgame press conferences by thanking those in attendance for coming. She's even been known to shake everyone's hand in the room to reinforce her gratitude.
But graciousness does not win basketball games, and that's been clear at Pitt for just over two years now.
On Tuesday, No. 3 UConn blasted the Panthers 76-36 before 9,428 at the XL Center in the final regular-season home game of the year for the Huskies.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, honored with Kelly Faris before the game for reaching 1,000 career points on Saturday, led the Huskies with another 19 points and 13 rebounds. And she played all 40 minutes for the first time this season.
"For every other player, I try to find a reason to take them out," coach Geno Auriemma said. "But for her, I can't find a reason to do it. … It's never a bad thing to have her on the floor, that's for sure."
Stefanie Dolson added 14 points and seven rebounds. And Breanna Stewart scored 15 points to go with nine rebounds, four assists, four blocks and three steals.
Faris had 11 points and nine rebounds, leaving her five boards shy of 750 in her career.
If she gets those, she will join Maya Moore as the only two players in UConn history with at least 1,000 points, 750 rebounds, 500 assists and 250 steals.
The Panthers were led by Brianna Kiesel (11 points) and Asia Logan (10 points).
It wasn't as harsh as it appeared, however. The Huskies walked (10 first-half turnovers) before finding a gait comfortable enough to get the job done.
"It was a little choppy," Stewart said. "Things went well for a while and then it seemed like it didn't go so well."
The Huskies (26-2, 13-1) are done with the home portion of their schedule. They complete the regular season Saturday at South Florida and Monday against No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
The Notre Dame game will determine the conference regular-season championship, should UConn and Notre Dame win Saturday. The Irish play Providence.
Such excitement does not await the Panthers (9-18, 0-14). They haven't won a conference game since March 4, 2011, when they beat USF in the Big East tournament. That was 32 games ago.
They haven't won a regular-season conference game since Feb. 15, 2011, against Providence. That was 34 games ago.
"But we don't feel sorry for ourselves," Berenato said.
Consider that Pitt went 12-4 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament in 2008-09, capping its fourth consecutive 20-win season. Since then the Panthers are 10-49 in the Big East regular season.
Still, it's not possible for Pitt to set the record for the longest losing streak in the Big East history, even if it completes its second straight 0-16 season. Providence holds that mark (39) for consecutive losses.
And with probably just four games left this year — three regular season, one tournament — it won't happen before the Panthers move to the ACC next season.
"A game is a game," Auriemma said. "It's on the schedule. We have no control over someone's record. The only thing we have control over is how we play. You can't decide when you are going to play well, execute well. You don't make them based on the other team's record. You have to play the same way, although it's hard sometimes to do it."
The Huskies led 37-13 at the end of the first half. But its pace seemed a touch tentative, especially in the early moments when it missed seven of its first eight shots.
The Panthers led three times in the first few minutes, the last time at 8-7 with 14:07 remaining in the half. Dolson missed three of her first four shots and was temporarily taken out of the game.
But a three-pointer by Moriah Jefferson gave UConn a 10-8 lead and that was pretty much that — at least on the scoreboard.
UConn outscored the Panthers 27-5 over the remainder of the half, holding them without a field goal for the final 9:26. The Panthers were just 5 of 27 from the field in the half and were badly outrebounded.
Still, there were moments when all Auriemma could do was hold his head. In fact, one of those pensive moments was caught on the video board late in the first half. He was holding his glasses with one hand, rubbing the bridge of his nose with the other.
"Yes, he was a little frustrated with us, but he had good reason to be," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We were frustrated with ourselves."
The cause for concern was clear: The Huskies shot only 15 of 36 in the first half and had almost as many turnovers (10) as assists (11). That kind of ratio beats Pitt. It doesn't win championships.
Things picked up a bit once the second half got rolling. The Huskies finished with 26 assists and just 13 turnovers. UConn's offense began to run with more crispness. Dolson's scoring total picked up, as did her shooting. After her 1 of 4 start, she made six of her next seven.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh wasn't getting much production from anyone other than Kiesel and Logan, who combined for all 13 first-half points.
Loliya Briggs joined the scoring 33 seconds into the second half. But it wasn't until 13:13 remained that a fourth Panther, Marquel Davis, also scored. And by that time it was 49-23.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun