UConn, Faris get defensive to stop Maryland

By Carl Adamec

Kelly Faris may end her career with the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team getting more done and getting less credit for it than any player in Huskies’ history.

Take No. 2 UConn’s 63-48 win over ninth-ranked Maryland in the Jimmy V Classic Monday night before a crowd of 11,645 at the XL Center in Hartford for example.

Faris held Maryland All-American Alyssa Thomas to six points on 2-for-12 shooting from the floor and forced her into eight turnovers. Thomas, though, pointed the finger at herself for her struggles.

“That kind of stuff, I don’t care,” Faris said. “If she thinks it’s on her, that’s fine. As long as we come out with the win and we do a good job defensively I’m fine with it.”

The Plainfield, Ind., native finished with eight points on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor, seven rebounds, seven assists with no turnovers, and a career high eight steals in 34 minutes while locking up Thomas.

While Thomas wouldn’t give Faris any props, the Huskies’ Hall of Fame coach gave her plenty.

“The longer people overlook her, the longer people don’t give her the benefit of the doubt and the respect she deserves and has earned, the better for us,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Kelly is just going to keep doing that every game for the rest of the year. If Alyssa Thomas thinks that, that’s fine. I didn’t know that All-Americans turn the ball over eight times without someone helping them turn it over.

“Kelly just wants to win. Kelly wants to make plays that help our team win. She’s totally unaffected by other people’s opinions. She’s unaffected by how many shots she gets or how many points she scores. I’ve never seen a kid more dedicating to winning and more committed to winning. And don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some great winners here. There have been a lot that have been the same but she is committed and dedicated to winning as anyone I’ve ever had at Connecticut.”

For Faris, praise from her coaches and teammates is more than enough.

“It’s not about being recognized for anything. It’s about getting a win,” she said. “To me, I’m expected to do that. I’m expected to play defense. Those aren’t things that I think, ‘Oh, I should get credit for that.’ It’s expected. You come here and … Coach was saying the other day, ‘A lot of coaches settle for trying hard and trying hard is good enough. But that’s an expectation here so we’re beyond that. Trying hard isn’t good enough and you have to do this, this, and this perfect.’ Is that realistic? We’re not going to do everything perfectly. But that’s what we have to strive for and not just trying hard.”

Faris’ effort on the defensive end helped make UConn’s struggling offense a moot point. The Huskies (7-0) had a season low in points. Their previous low was 81 against Texas A&M and Marist.

“Faris just makes play after play,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “She’s so tough. She never takes a play off.”

The Terrapins (4-2), who are down to eight players after losing three to season-ending knee injuries, were physical and made the Huskies work and were justifiably proud of their effort.

But Maryland shot just 35.3 percent from the floor and committed 26 turnovers as UConn ran its winning streak against Atlantic Coast Conference teams to 20.

The Huskies led wire to wire for the sixth straight game, scoring the game’s first six points en route to a 13-4 lead. Maryland pulled back within two on a Tianna Hawkins hoop before the Huskies regained command. Breanna Stewart scored the first seven points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ 3-pointer capped a 10-0 run that made it 27-15. Two baskets by Faris closed the period and gave the Huskies a 33-20 halftime lead.

Maryland closed within 40-33, but a 3-point basket by Brianna Banks and a conventional three-point play by All-American Bria Hartley put the lead in double figures the rest of the way.

“It’s always good to win a game when you don’t shoot the ball very well and your struggling offensively and some of the younger guys are struggling a little bit,” Auriemma said. “So to win a game like that is really a good sign for us.”

Stefanie Dolson led the Huskies with 14 points and eight rebounds. Stewart added 13 and Banks 11. Mosqueda-Lewis did not play in the second half because of a left quad contusion. Her status for Thursday’s game against No. 10 Penn State at Gampel Pavilion is in doubt.

Hawkins had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds for Maryland. The Terrapins, who lead the nation in rebound margin, won the battle of the boards 39-35.

Monday night’s meeting was the first between the schools. The Huskies will travel to College Park next season.