UConn's Breanna Stewart scored a game-high 26 points to go along with seven rebounds Friday night, as the No. 1 ranked Huskies used their size and a balanced scoring attack to beat No. 8 ranked Maryland 72-55 in their first ever trip to College Park.
Four Huskies scored double-digit points and UConn (3-0) became just the third team in Maryland's (2-1) last 37 games to outrebound the Terps.
"We're as big as anybody upfront obviously," UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said, "and it's not easy to get extra buckets against us."
Stewart, a sophomore forward and Preseason AP All-American, was able to step up and help her team come away with the victory despite missing two of its key players due to injury.
Fellow Preseason AP All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis left the Huskies last game against Stanford with a elbow nerve contusion and is out indefinitely, and Morgan Tuck is expected to be out 4-6 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery this week.
"I think we learned that even when we have a little adversity we're still coming out, we're still playing Connecticut basketball," Stewart said.
"Despite their injuries, they have depth at every position," Maryland head coach Brenda Frese, who just signed a multi-year contract extension with the team, said.
As far as health goes, the roles were reversed for the two teams in their third meeting since last December.
In both meetings in Connecticut last season, which also resulted in double-digit losses for the Terps, Maryland was missing significant players because of injury. But this time it was clear that Frese intended to use the team's health and subsequent depth to its advantage, playing 11 players to UConn's seven.
If they wanted a chance to beat the defending national champions Maryland also needed a big game from their own Preseason AP All-American, senior forward Alyssa Thomas.
Thomas did not disappoint the home crowd, picking up her second double-double of the season by the end of the first half and finishing the game with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
"She put the team on her back in the first half," Frese said.
Thomas came out firing, scoring 12 of the Terps' first 21 points and attacking the boards with clearly more aggression than anyone on the court.
"When my first jump shot falls the basket looks like an ocean to me," Thomas, who after this game needs 519 points to become the program's all-time leading scorer, said.
But for every shot that Thomas made, it seemed like Stewart had an answer, as the first half had all the back-and-forth excitement that would be expected of a matchup between top 10 teams.
After going into halftime with a 43-38 lead, UConn used a 13-2 run in the first seven minutes of the second half to open things up. From then on, the game was never as close as the first half may have indicated.
The difference being that Stewart, who scored 19 in the first half, had a little bit more help from her supporting cast.
UConn guards Bria Hartley and Moriah Jefferson finished the game with 10 and 15 points respectively, and the backcourt duo also combined for 10 assists to just one turnover for the game.
Guarding each other for most of the game, Thomas outrebounded Stewart 10 to zero in the first half, but Stewart picked it up in the second half, grabbing all seven of her rebounds to Thomas' four.
"I thought our post play was a lot more aggressive in the first half," Frese said. "We had no answer for Stewart."
Maryland tried to find the answer to UConn's size up front by getting senior center Stefanie Dolson in foul trouble early and exploiting the Huskies' lack of depth.
And although Dolson picked up her fourth foul with more than 16 minutes left in the game she did not foul out and was able to finish with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks.
Despite losing just their sixth game ever in the Comcast Center to a non-conference team, Frese insists that this game is more of a positive learning experience for her team than anything else.
"They're defending national champions for a reason," Frese said. "This was a game that I said all along wasn't going to make or break our season. We can thank UConn for showing us what we need to get better at."