By Carl Adamec
PROVIDENCE — Kelly Faris doesn’t like the limelight, though it seems to keep finding her more and more as she goes through her final season with the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.
The spotlight found the senior guard again Tuesday night, and not so much because she had a Faris-like all-around effort of 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists in the third-ranked Huskies’ 105-49 Big East rout of Providence before a crowd of 1,265 at Alumni Hall.
The Plainfield, Ind., native became the fourth UConn player in program history to start 100 consecutive games, joining Renee Montgomery (140), Jennifer Rizzotti (135), and Jamelle Elliott (106) on the short list of Huskies to do it. She admits she’s been lucky. But also give her credit for becoming the player that coach Geno Auriemma hoped she would be when she arrived in Storrs almost four years ago.
“It’s not easy to put into words all the time what someone’s true contributions are,” Auriemma said. “The stat sheet, the record book, that just tells one part of the story. Kelly’s contributions are so numerous. And the 100 starts in a row is most indicative of how consistent and how reliable and how fortunate she’s been to stay healthy and how committed she is to winning and doing whatever she has to do for the University of Connecticut.”
The last time she came off the Huskies’ bench was in the 2010 national championship game against Stanford. Ever since, Auriemma has penned her in to the starting lineup.
Faris now has 968 points, 725 rebounds, 490 assists, and 262 steals in her career. She is closing in on joining three-time Wade Trophy winner Maya Moore as the only UConn players with 1,000 points, 750 rebounds, 500 assists, and 250 steals.
Tuesday night’s contest was also her Faris’ 139th straight game played, the seventh-longest streak in UConn history.
In her career, the Huskies are 131-8.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Faris said of her run of starts. “But thinking about it, it means a lot. It’s nice that Coach trusts you.”
UConn (23-1 overall, 10-1 Big East) wasn’t expected to get much of a test from Providence and didn’t, though the Friars (7-17, 2-9) did play well for stretches of the first half.
The Huskies have won 11 straight overall and 28 straight against the Friars. Six of UConn’s 11 players and five of Providence’s top eight players were not yet born on March 7, 1993, when the Friars last beat UConn in the Big East tournament semifinals here at Alumni Hall.
Tori Rule’s 3-point basket gave Providence a one-point lead. But Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Caroline Doty answered with treys to start a 12-0 run that took just 57 seconds. All five UConn starters had hit the scoring column with just 2:18 gone.
“I was thrilled that the game started the way it did,” Auriemma said. “The last time we were on the road (at St. John’s) we were kind of sluggish and we wanted to make sure we started off with a little more of an aggressive attitude and pushing the tempo as much as we could. I thought Bria Hartley was really good at finding people. And when we’re making shots like we have been lately it’s really hard to keep up with us. When we’re moving and the ball is moving we’re a hard team to keep up with.”
Nine unanswered points, including five by Faris, made it 30-8. Morgan Tuck gave the Huskies their biggest lead of the first half at 50-22. It was 56-29 at the break.
The Friars got no closer the rest of the way. Heather Buck’s layup with 2:10 left put the Huskies into triple figures. In the three games since the struggle at St. John’s, UConn is averaging 96.3 points per game, 56.7 points in the first half.
“We’ve been getting a lot more continuity, there’s a lot more movement in the offense every time down the court,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “When we get a good rhythm going we want to keep it going. As long as everyone is cutting and moving our offense works well for us.”
UConn placed six players in double figures for the second time in three games. Mosqueda-Lewis led the way with 17 points while Stefanie Dolson followed Faris’ 16 with 14 points. Breanna Stewart notched a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) while fellow freshman Moriah Jefferson added a career high 13 points. Hartley finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The Huskies shot 56.9 percent from the floor and were 24-for-30 from the foul line. Providence shot only four free throws. UConn had a 34-6 advantage in points in the paint and was 7-for-18 from 3-point land.
“We got a lot of buckets inside and outside,” Faris said. “We had different people hitting the shots, different people taking it to the basket. We’re at our best when we have everyone involved.”
Brianna Edwards had 17 points for Providence.
UConn is back on the road Saturday when it takes on Rutgers (SNY, 4 p.m.) in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer will be going for the 900th win of her Hall of Fame career. She was denied in her first attempt Tuesday night as DePaul topped the Scarlet Knights 60-57 in Chicago.