STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — Geno Auriemma hardly expected his top-ranked Connecticut team to come out dazzling while playing for the first time in a week.
Good thing it was Pacific on the schedule. Things get much harder for the Huskies now.
Maya Moore had 17 points and eight rebounds and UConn earned its 90th straight victory with an 85-42 win over Pacific on Tuesday night, a lopsided West Coast warmup ahead of the Huskies’ showdown with ninth-ranked Stanford on Thursday.
“Sometimes it can help you and sometimes it can backfire,” Auriemma said of this type of game. “Stanford played today. They won by a thousand. They’re ready to go and we’re out here getting banged around by these kids. I just think playing anybody, doesn’t matter who it is, right after the holidays is never easy.”
UConn (12-0), on the court in Northern California only a few hours after the Cardinal whipped No. 4 Xavier 89-52 at Maples Pavilion, was solid and methodical in its first game since topping the 88-game winning streak set by John Wooden’s UCLA men’s team from 1971-74 by beating No. 22 Florida State 93-62 on Dec. 21.
Jordan Rogers led scrappy but overmatched Pacific (3-10) with 11 points. The Tigers committed 22 turnovers, shot 27.8 percent and gave up a 30-2 second-half run.
For Auriemma’s bunch, this game was about getting acclimated across the country before its highly anticipated showdown with Stanford. Auriemma used a two-post lineup in the second half in preparation for Stanford’s tough front line.
The game Thursday is a rematch of last year’s NCAA championship game won 53-47 by the Huskies after Stanford led 20-12 at halftime. UConn hasn’t lost since a defeat to Stanford in the 2008 NCAA semifinals.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said she would use every one of her starters to defend do-everything star Moore, listing each by name.
“Did I forget anybody?” she quipped.
Moore was 7 of 14 after going off for a career-high 41 points in the win over Florida State, earning her Big East Player of the Week honors.
“I thought we had a little bit of rust at the beginning coming off Christmas,” Moore said. “It’s a start and hopefully we can build from here. They were aggressive and they didn’t play with any fear.”
Kelly Faris added 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds while Bria Hartley scored 13 points and Tiffany Hayes added 12 for UConn. Sophomore center Heather Buck had a career-high 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Pacific fans waved their “WITNESS HISTORY” signs at the sold-out, rocking Spanos Center, which packed in more than its 6,150 capacity for the school’s largest crowd ever at a women’s game and first sellout — in fact, more than three times bigger than the previous-best draw of 1,917 against Cal Poly on Feb. 21, 2009.
Fans went wild with each Pacific basket against the two-time defending champions. This marked Pacific’s first time ever playing a top-ranked program after twice facing the No. 2 team.
“They’re a machine at this point,” Pacific coach Lynne Roberts said. “It was a great atmosphere here. It’s certainly new to us at Pacific here at home.”
Moore missed a layin moments after UConn won the opening tip and the Huskies took a while to get going. They began 4 for 19, missed four of their first five 3-point tries and committed six turnovers in the opening 10 1/2 minutes.
But the Huskies converted 18 of 20 first-half free throws and recovered with a 34-7 run over the final 8:25 to turn a three-point lead into a 49-19 halftime cushion.
UConn flew to California on a 6:30 a.m. flight Sunday, just beating the crippling blizzard that hit the East Coast.
The Huskies lost key reserve guard Lorin Dixon for Tuesday’s game and probably Thursday, too, after she sprained her left foot in Monday’s practice. Dixon was hurt when she came down on a teammate’s foot. UConn said she could undergo an X-ray on Wednesday at Stanford if the foot doesn’t show improvement.
Dixon, a senior, is averaging 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game off the bench.
“It’s going to be a huge problem because we can’t get bigger,” Auriemma said. “It’s going to be very difficult for us to match up with them. We’ll go in and we’ll play and we’ll see what happens.”
The Tigers began the game 2 for 15 and missed their initial six 3-point attempts before Kendall Rodriguez hit from long range at the 9:05 mark of the first half. Her jumper the next time down pulled Pacific within 15-12 — then UConn answered with its big run.
Pacific, of the Big West Conference, has lost its past nine matchups with ranked opponents since beating then-No. 18 Santa Barbara at home on Jan. 18, 2003.
“I’m appreciative of UConn playing us at home,” said Roberts, who will take her team to Storrs early next season. “They didn’t have to be here.”
Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden, who threw a perfect game May 9 against Tampa Bay, was among those seated courtside.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)