HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — UConn’s Geno Auriemma moved to the top of another list on Saturday.
The Huskies 96-45 win over SMU gave the Hall of Fame coach a career record of 888-134, and a winning percentage of 86.888. That’s the best in women’s college basketball history, surpassing former Louisiana Tech Coach Leon Barmore, who finished his career his career with a winning percentage of 86.878 and a record of 576-87.
“But if we lose Monday night, then I’m back to No. 2, and I’m king for a day,” Auriemma joked.
UConn point guard Moriah Jefferson broke out of a three-game slump with a career-high 24 points to lead the Huskies (9-1) in the teams’ American Athletic Conference opener. The junior point guard, who had just 11 points over her last three games, hit eight of her 12 shots. She was 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 19 points, Kia Nurse had 13 points and seven assists and Morgan Tuck added 12 points for UConn which hosts No. 10 Duke on Monday night.
Sisters Keely and Alicia Froling and Raven Short each had seven points to lead SMU (4-8), which has now lost five in a row.
The Huskies scored the game’s first eight points and hit 10 of their first 11 shots, opening a 20-2 lead that put the game out of reach early.
Jefferson, whose previous career high was 19-points, hit two 3-pointers and had 11 points during the opening run. She had all five of her steals by halftime and added four assists.
She said Mosqueda-Lewis motivated her before the game, pointing out she had one more steal (18 to 17) than Jefferson this season.
“We both came out trying to challenge each other and see who could get the most steals today,” Jefferson said. “After that, I think the offense came naturally.”
The Huskies, who went to their bench early, made seven of 24 attempts the rest of the half, but stretched the lead to 30-points on Kia Nurse’s free throw 15 minutes into the game. The Mustangs committed 22 first-half turnovers and had 10 fouls, eight of them before UConn picked up its first foul.
A 14-2 run gave the Huskies a 44-11 lead. Mosqueda-Lewis’ third 3-pointer of the game sent the Huskies into halftime with a 49-16 lead.
Jefferson hit two 3-pointers early in the second half to give UConn its first 40-point lead at 58-18.
The Huskies shot 51.5 percent from the floor while holding SMU to just 34 percent shooting and 18 baskets.
“I don’t care what they say in the polls, I think they are the best darn team in college basketball,” said SMU coach Rhonda Rompola. “They are like playing a WNBA team.”
The Huskies easy win came despite a poor shooting night from Breanna Stewart, last year’s national player of the year. Stewart hit just two of her nine shots and finished with six points and three fouls. But she led the team with 12 rebounds.
“We’re the type of team if somebody’s having an off night or they’re not scoring as much, we can pick up the slack,” said Mosqueda-Lewis.
SMU: The Mustangs have now lost five in a row and six of their last seven. SMU’s lone win in December came at home on Dec. 3 against North Texas.
UCONN: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ three 3-pointers tied her with Maya Moore for second place on the school’s all-time list with 311. Diana Taurasi is next up with 318.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: UConn improved to 144-13 in Hartford. The Huskies have won 70 of the last 73 times they have played at the XL Center.
UCONN: The Huskies are home Monday night for a non-conference showdown with No. 10 Duke.
SMU: The Mustangs travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple on Tuesday.
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