By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — Kelly Faris’ statistics say she may have played her best game as a member of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team Monday.
The senior guard had 18 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and two steals as the third-ranked Huskies pulled away in the second half to pound No. 4 and previously unbeaten Duke 79-49 before a loud crowd of 9,671 at Gampel Pavilion.
But to her Hall of Fame coach, the numbers still didn’t tell Faris’ whole story.
“On the stat sheet you can’t see the total exhaustion that she plays herself into,” Geno Auriemma said. “You can’t see how much of herself she leaves on the floor. You look at that stat sheet and go, ‘Yeah, she’s 5-10 and she managed all that.’
“If you look at the stat sheet, that’s a pretty good game. But if you saw the game and you saw how she did it and the way it all transpired, then you know there’s a lot more to Kelly than the numbers in a box score.”
When Faris came out of the game with 1:36 left, she received a hug from her coach and a standing ovation from the crowd. And it looked like she even smiled.
“I told them in the locker room, it’s so much more fun when we play like that,” Faris said. “Everyone on the team felt it. Everyone in the gym felt it. Something clicked and we had fun playing ball.”
The Huskies (17-1) have won six straight games in the series against the Blue Devils (16-1) by an average of 29.3 points.
This one seemed like it might be different, though, as Duke trailed just 32-30 at halftime.
But with Faris leading the charge, the Huskies jumped all over the Blue Devils in the final 20 minutes.
“What happened in the second half was indescribable,” Auriemma said. “If you were watching it in the stands, you were fortunate enough to be a part of it. If you were on the bench … If you were part of what Kelly Faris did tonight, people are going to be talking about it for a long time.
“There’s been some great players play in this building. There have been some legends play in this building wearing that Connecticut uniform. I don’t if anybody ever represented that uniform, herself, her family, the way that kid did tonight. I know there are a lot of players out there that are really good. I know there are All-Americans. But, man oh man, that was one for the ages.”
UConn was ahead 41-35 when it landed the knockout punch — a 24-4 run in a 7:54 span. And it did most of the damage with center Stefanie Dolson on the bench with four fouls. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart had six points each in the run that made it a 26-point game with 8:30 left.
The Huskies’ biggest lead was 31.
“Every year they’re supposed to be a really good team,” Faris said. “You get fired up for those games. These are the games you live for. There was a lot of frustration built up over the last few games we played and this was our chance to redeem ourselves.”
With Faris here, there, and everywhere, Duke spent the final minutes waiting for the clock to mercifully run out.
“To see her get the praise and do so well in the big game, I’m so happy for her,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “Kelly is willing to give us everything she has. It doesn’t matter what she has to sacrifice. She’ll do anything for any of us and it’s time to pay it back to her.”
Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies with 21 points. Stewart had all 13 of her points in the second half. Bria Hartley had a career high nine assists.
UConn shot exactly 50 percent in each half, but had 12 first-half turnovers and only three miscues in the second half.
Alexis Jones 14 points for Duke.
“This is exactly how we’ve been playing all year,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We’ve played some great 20 minute-ball but we’ve been pretty much non-existent for 40-minute ball. Give credit to Connecticut. They really played really well in the second half, Kelly Faris in particular.”
UConn is 13-0 in non-league play with Baylor remaining.
The Huskies return to Big East play Saturday when they visit former player and assistant coach Jamelle Elliott and Cincinnati (8 p.m., SNY).