UConn Women's Basketball: Huskies trying to stay red hot

Joe Perez

UConn women’s basketball Coach Geno Auriemma has wanted center Tina Charles to play with more aggression, more edge — a mean streak even — for as long as the sophomore has been under his guidance.

Certainly there have been occasions where she’s exhibited the ability to take control of a game, as she did last season with 34 points and 17 rebounds at South Florida. Talent-wise, there’s no question the six-foot-four post can do it. Getting her in the mindset to do it is a different story.

After 12 points combined in her last two games, Charles’ 19-point, 11-rebound performance in the top-ranked Huskies’ 88-38 win at Villanova Thursday was a step in the right direction.

“I would say, probably, she knew she had to be real active on the defensive end,”  Auriemma said. “It’s not often Tina’s going to hear, ‘Look, your guy might take 10 threes,’ or ‘We’re going to play some zone and you’re going to, in some cases, cover sideline to sideline.’ I think she was in a real active mindset and I think that carried over to the offensive end and she had some success. She just fed off of that. I think Tina’s been waiting to have the kind of game where everything seemed to go her way.”

For the record, Villanova’s starting front court attempted 13 threes.

Equally as impressive was that 17 of her points and nine of her rebounds came in the first half. Plus, with 7-of-10 shooting, Charles wasn’t making a living on putting back her own misses. Charles was a big reason UConn held a 38-8 edge in points in the paint.

“I would just say my mindset and wanting to come into the game and dominate as much as I can,” Charles said. “With it being the Big East opener, you want to have a fresh start.”

Charles had some help in the post as Brittany Hunter, who missed the last game against Army and sat out of practice Wednesday, returned to the starting lineup.

The blowout win gave the Huskies (12-0, 1-0 Big East) the luxury of not having to play Hunter too many minutes as she gets back into the flow of a game. In 13 minutes, Hunter had five points and four rebounds. Including Thursday’s contest, four of the next five games are on the road and three of those games take place within a week. Any opportunity to give Hunter a breather is essential.

“I didn’t think I was going to be out for two games,” Hunter said. “The way I hurt (her right knee), I just knew how it felt and I just knew that it was a couple days off and I would be O.K. It just sucks because it’s four games consecutively, so I had to miss a game regardless.”

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