UConn held Kansas State to an NCAA Tournament-record low 26 points in the second round of the tournament Monday.
The Huskies' dominating 72-26 performance over Kansas State in the second round was the result of several factors, not the least of which was a defensive performance that can best be described as clinical. For most of the season, Geno Auriemma's Huskies have been inconsistent -- not in the same way as the men's team, mind you, but relatively speaking. They lost four times, including back-to-back home games late in the year to Big East opponents St. John's and Notre Dame.
But UConn looks like their old selves since the conference tournament and Monday night's win over Kansas State was a culmination of that. And since the ultimate goal is win national title No. 8 under Auriemma, this is clearly an important development.
"To Coach Auriemma, defense is the most important thing," UConn's Stefanie Dolson said according to the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla.
The 26 points UConn allowed in their last game was the fewest ever in an NCAA Tournament game.
"If you look back to the championship game we played against Stanford [in 2009], it looked like both teams were throwing no-hitters [Stanford led 20-12] at the half," Auriemma said. "Then Maya Moore came out in the second half. I would say that defense can get you to a certain point to where you can win the game. But then you still need to win the game."
"It wasn't that long ago, in October [of 2011 when Phillies pitcher] Roy Halladay gave up one run in the last game [of the NLDS] and lost [to the Cardinals]. I don't want to hold someone to 26 points and lose 26-25. You still need to put the ball in the basket."
The Huskies have the ability to score points in bunches. Freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has been as good as advertised -- she leads the team with 15 points per game. Senior Tiffany Hayes (14.8 ppg) and junior Bria Hartley (13.8 ppg) aren't far behind, but at the end of the day, defense is what drives this team.
"Defense is what we take pride in here," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I feel like we have a lot of good offensive players, but it doesn't really take heart to play offense. All defense is a lot of heart and a lot of effort, and I think we put out a lot of heart and a lot of effort on defense [against Kansas State]."
Next up: the Huskies face Penn State in the Sweet 16 this Sunday.