Natalie Butler missed the first 10 games this season with torn ligaments in her left thumb. Now the former Big East Conference freshman of the year is adding more firepower to top-ranked UConn's arsenal.
Butler, a Georgetown transfer, was among eight players in double-figures with 11 points in her Huskies debut as No. 1 UConn extended its winning streak to 48 games with a 107-45 victory on Wednesday night at Cincinnati.
"I was anxious to see how she would play," said coach Geno Auriemma. "It's taken a long time for her to feel what it's like to be back on the floor. She changes the dynamic of our team."
Breanna Stewart scored 16 points to lead UConn (11-0) which has won 95 of its past 96 games and haven't lost since Nov. 17, 2014, an 88-86 overtime defeat to Stanford in the second game of last season.
"Tonight showed how versatile our team can be," said Stewart. "We got a lot of contributions off the bench."
UConn started fast on Wednesday and seldom took their foot off the gas.
A 3-pointer by Kia Nurse capped the first of two 9-0 runs in the first half for Huskies. She finished with 10 points.
Stewart who had 23 points on Monday against sixth-ranked Maryland in her return from a sprained ankle scored on a layup to put UConn ahead 13-3 prompting a UC timeout.
Butler scored on a layup just seconds after entering the game. After sitting out her transfer season and then having thumb surgery, it was a long time coming.
"(Auriemma) told me at shoot-around that I would play," said Butler who played with a wrap on her wrist. "I couldn't really think about, I just had to play. My teammates made it a lot easier for me."
Seven UConn players scored led by Nurse's eight points and the Huskies went 4 of 6 from 3-point range to build a 31-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Moriah Jefferson led all scorers with 10 points in the first half helping the Huskies go ahead 54-22 at halftime.
UConn's 54 first-half points were a season-high, surpassing the 50 points scored in the season opener against then 7th-ranked Ohio State.
The Huskies were efficient throughout with seven turnovers, only two in the second half. This after committing 13 first-half turnovers in Monday's win over Maryland.
"It's a mind thing," said Auriemma. "We generally shoot a high percentage so turnovers are buckets we don't get. Turnovers are mental not physical."
Senior forward Morgan Tuck took over in the second half to put the score further out of reach with 10 of her 14 points in the third quarter to reach double-figures for the 54th time in her career.
"It's one of those nights when you could feel everybody who was on the floor was confident and connected," Auriemma said. "When you play a lot of players things can get disjointed sometimes."
UConn exerted its physical dominance on Cincinnati throughout Wednesday's game, outrebounding the Bearcats 51-25 and outscoring them 42-10 in the paint.
Sophomore guard Ana Owens scored 10 points to lead Cincinnati (4-8) which fell to 0-15 all-time vs. UConn.
UConn: The Huskies' current 48-game winning streak is their longest since a NCAA-record 90-game streak in 2008-10. . Junior G Natalie Butler, a former Big East Conference freshman of the year at Georgetown, made her Huskies debut in the first quarter after missing the first 10 games with a thumb injury. . Senior F Breanna Stewart now is third on the school's all-time scoring list with 2,182 points.
Cincinnati: Bearcats coach Jemelle Elliott was a player and assistant for 12 years at UConn under coach Geno Auriemma. She was part of six national championships including one in 1995 as a player.
UConn: The Huskies will be looking for their 49th straight victory when they host Tulsa on Wednesday.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats visit Central Florida on Saturday.