Hartford — Among college basketball's ultimate voyage of self-discovery, otherwise known as the long regular season, is gauging how your team responds to a punch in the mouth. Take the No. 9 Maryland women's blueprint Monday night, for instance: If you can't beat them, beat them up.
Not a bad strategy, especially on the road at No. 1 UConn, where the Huskies are so used to opponents that are scared shotless.
The Huskies managed a 63-48 victory at the XL Center in the women's Jimmy V Classic, a tribute to some toughness, the tireless Kelly Faris and some timely three-point shooting from Brianna Banks.
"How many of you didn't think we had a chance in this game tonight?" Maryland coach Brenda Frese asked after the game.
Frese and the Terps (4-2) are down an entire starting backcourt because of injury. Her team was stout nonetheless, giving itself some inspiration for the future and UConn a frame of reference for the next team that doesn't allow pretty, free-flowing basketball.
"You kind of know who your tough guys are and the guys who are going to be affected by (a physical game)," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It was good for them to see it. The staff knows who is going to do what when the punches start flying. This kind of game came at a good time."
Clearly, Auriemma and his coaches knew Faris would welcome the flying punches. Her stat sheet would make purists weep tears of joy: eight points, seven rebounds, eight steals, seven assists. Then came the better numbers: the primary responsibility for defending ACC Player of the Year Alyssa Thomas' 2-for-12 shooting and eight turnovers.
A sampling of opinions:
Thomas: "They didn't do anything we haven't seen all year."
Frese: "(Faris) doesn't take a play off. She continues to work defensively and offensively she runs you around in circles."
Auriemma: "It always amazes me how Big East coaches never vote for (Faris) for anything. They're stuck with the guys they have and the record they have. And we have the record we have because we have her. This was a great example of how someone can dominate a game and take six shots."
UConn led 40-33 with 13 minutes remaining, creating some restlessness among the crowd of 11,645. But Banks hit a 3-pointer that preceded Bria Hartley's natural 3-point play with 12:10 left and Maryland was never heard from again.
Stefanie Dolson, who was engaged in some physical play with Tianna Hawkins and Alicia DeVaughn, led UConn with 14 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Breanna Stewart had 13 points (4-for-12 shooting), six rebounds and five turnovers. Banks had 11 points.
UConn played the second half without Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who left with a quad contusion. Auriemma called her "doubtful" for Thursday's game against No. 6 Penn State at Gampel Pavilion.
Hawkins led Maryland with 14 points and freshman guard Chloe Pavlech had 10.
"You can tell on our faces we're not disappointed with how we played," Thomas said. "We're the first team to actually give UConn a game. I'm absolutely proud of our team. We competed with UConn."