ESPN color analyst Doris Burke mentioned it early in Tuesday night's matchup of top-ranked UConn and No. 2 Duke: The Blue Devils never seemed comfortable with the idea of taking it to the Huskies. Instead, UConn, with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 11, overwhelmed Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium leaving little doubt about who was the best team in the country.
When it was over, Geno Auriemma's team left Durham with an 83-61 win, their 11th of the season. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, were left to wonder if they ever will be able to compete on the same level.
Mosqueda-Lewis didn't start, but played 27 minutes and, well, looked a lot like the player we saw the previous two seasons. She finished with 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting -- all beyond the arc.
"I set my expectations low and hoped for the best," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I was somewhat surprised, but all I have really been doing since I was injured is shoot. I was hoping I would make a couple."
God help us if KML sets her expectations high at the outset.
"I had no idea what to expect from her," Auriemma said. "We were even prepared to play the entire game without her, if need be. But we wouldn't have won the way we won without her." Sophomore Breanna Stewart, whom Burke rightfully called the best player in the country, led all scorers with 24 points, including eight in the game's first four minutes. She also had 11 rebounds and three blocks.
"This is why we come to UConn," Stewart, said afterwards. "We come here to play in big games. We know we have a big target on our back. We understand opponents will be giving us their best."
For Auriemma, who has eight national titles at UConn, he added another bullet point to his ever-growing list of accomplishments: 850 career wins.
"I think I would be less than honest if I said I thought we could come in here and win by 20," he said. "Simply because we haven't played in (12 days). We weren't sure what we were going to get from (Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck). And I thought Duke being at home and they've got a bunch of upperclassmen ... it would be a little bit different."
It didn't turn out that way, obviously. Duke trailed by 20 in the first half and never could recover.
"It was an interesting game for us," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "We didn't play well defensively, we didn't rebound particularly well and we weren't very patient on offense when they were in the course of building their lead."
Next up: UConn faces California Sunday.