By Carl Adamec
Stefanie Dolson watched most of last year’s University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s game at Marquette near tears.
The 6-foot-5 center played the first six minutes and was then benched by coach Geno Auriemma the rest of the way. She finished with career lows of two points and one rebound in her little time on the floor of a 40-point win.
Dolson would go on to finish the 2011-12 strong, earning spots on the Big East and NCAA Kingston (R.I.) Regional all-tournament teams and scoring 20 points in the Final Four against Notre Dame. And that kind of play has continued into her junior season.
In her return to Milwaukee Saturday, Dolson had 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the floor as the third-ranked Huskies routed Marquette 85-51 in Big East action at the Al McGuire Center.
“We made it a point in the beginning of the game to get Stefanie the ball as much as possible and we did,” Auriemma said in his postgame press conference. “And that created a whole other set of problems for Marquette.”
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had a game-high 24 points for UConn (14-1 overall, 2-1 Big East) while Brianna Banks had 12 points. Kelly Faris added 11 points, eight assists, five rebounds, and five steals.
Saturday’s game ended a stretch of five games out of six away from home for UConn. The one loss in that time was at Gampel Pavilon Notre Dame a week ago.
“After our loss and not playing as well as we should have last game (against Georgetown), to come out here and play as well as we did is a good lift,” Dolson told SNY’s Kerith Burke.
Freshman forward Morgan Tuck, who missed her third game of the season with a right knee bone bruise against Georgetown Wednesday night, returned to the lineup Saturday. But fellow freshman Breanna Stewart, UConn’s second-leading scorer (14.6) and top rebounder (7.3) sat out due to a sprained left ankle she suffered in practice Friday. She is listed as day to day. Stewart is the fifth out of UConn’s 11-player roster to miss a game due to injury, joining Kiah Stokes (5), Tuck (3), Bria Hartley (2), and Mosqueda-Lewis (1).
Hartley also went out early in the first half after a collision with Marquette’s Katherine Plouffe while going for a loose ball. She had her left ankle retaped and did not return.
“Bria just rolled her ankle and it’s the same one that was bothering her before,” Auriemma said. “Breanna stepped on someone’s foot, I think it was Kaleena’s, and that was that. There’s not much you can do about those things.
“I’m hopeful both will be back on Tuesday.”
The Huskies did not trail Saturday, opening the game with 11 unanswered points .
Dolson’s layup got it started and Mosqueda-Lewis followed with a 3-pointer. A second Dolson hoop and two free throws each by Mosqueda-Lewis and Dolson made it 11-0. Marquette (8-7, 0-2) got the next three points, but four players scored in a 10-0 run to make it 21-3.
A 16-4 burst pushed the Huskies’ advantage to 39-13 and they led 54-19 at halftime.
“The ball movement was great that first half,” Auriemma said. “We got the exact shot we wanted to get most every time down the floor. It’s been awhile since we have come out with that kind of focus to start a game and it was good to see.
“The points were coming from every spot on the floor and when that happens we’re a difficult team to play against.”
UConn led by as many as 48. The Golden Eagles closed the game on a 16-2 run.
Sarina Simmons had 19 points for Marquette. Leading scorer and rebounder Plouffe did not have a point or a rebound and was 0-for-5 from the floor. UConn won the battle of the boards 45-29.
The Huskies are now 44-0 against the five former Conference USA teams — Cincinnati (7-0), DePaul (9-0), Louisville (11-0), Marquette (8-0), and South Florida (9-0) — that joined the Big East for the 2005-06 season. They are 5-0 at the Al McGuire Center.
UConn is back home Tuesday to face No. 15 Louisville at the XL Center in Hartford. Game time is 9 p.m. The Cardinals (14-3, 2-1) received 17 points each from Bria Smith and Shoni Schimmel in a 70-62 win over host Providence at Alumni Hall Saturday.