HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut women received their first true test of the season against Maryland, and it was the tenacious play of senior guard Kelly Faris that helped propel the No. 2 Huskies to a 63-48 victory over the No. 10 Terrapins.
Faris finished the game with seven rebounds, seven assists and added eight steals, a new career-high for her. She also scored eight points, just missing a potential quadruple-double.
“It’s a great example of how somebody can dominate a game and take six shots,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of Faris. “She has an impact that goes beyond the stat sheet.”
Faris had the task of guarding the reigning ACC Player of the Year, Alyssa Thomas. Faris held Thomas to six points on 2-of-12 shooting. Thomas also had eight turnovers in the game and was held scoreless in the first half. According to Auriemma, Faris guarded Thomas as well as anyone could be defended.
“I’m not really a big person on looking at stats really because that’s all paper,” Faris said.
Despite how she may feel about individual performances, Faris stressed the importance of reducing turnovers as a team. The Huskies (7-0) turned the ball over 17 times against Maryland, tying a season-high, previously set in the 81-50 win over then No. 16 Texas A&M.
However, UConn’s turnover amount was less than Maryland’s who set a season-high with 26 turnovers, 15 of which were forced by UConn.
We’re not disappointed in how we played, we’re the first team to give UConn a game,” Thomas said. “I’m absolutely proud of my team. We competed with UConn and I know we will see them again.”
Maryland was forced to play with only seven players Monday because they have lost three of their players this season due to torn ACL injuries. The Terrapins will likely play their season without guards Laurin Mincy and Brene Moseley as well as six-foot-seven center Essence Townsend.
“Obviously, it’s a long season and we’re going to be tested with a lot of adversity,” coach Brenda Frese said about the depth of her team. “Our numbers are thin, but as long as we can continue with this workman-like mentality and just come out and leave everything out on the floor, it will be a really good season for us.”
Despite their lack of depth due to injuries, Maryland (4-2) played tough basketball, especially with their post players, noted UConn center Stefanie Dolson.
“It’s tough out there,” said Dolson, who led the Huskies with 14 points and eight rebounds. “I think it was just a good game in general for us to learn from. It was tough out there and we knew it going into it that it was going to be like that. I think we did a good job of responding to how tough they were and it was a good game for us at this point.”
Maryland was led by Tianna Hawkins, who recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
According to Dolson, the physicality of the game will be a learning experience that will benefit freshman Breanna Stewart’s young career. Stewart had 13 points and six rebounds, slightly lower than the 16.8 points per game she averaged through the first six games of the season.
Another number that was below the season average for UConn was the 63 points the Huskies scored as a team, which is 29 points below their season average of 92 points per game.
With 12:59 remaining in the game, Maryland cut UConn’s lead to seven points with a layup from Chloe Pavlech. On UConn’s next possession, Brianna Banks knocked down a three-pointer on an assist from Faris. On Maryland’s following possession, Faris stole the ball from Pavlech and passed the ball to Bria Hartley, who was fouled on her mid-range jumper and completed the three-point play. From that point on, UConn’s lead never fell below 12 points.
Hartley finished the game with eight points and four assists and Banks added 11 points off the bench.
The Huskies are now 43-13 all-time against ACC teams and have currently won 20 consecutive games against the conference.