Published March 03. 2013 4:00AM
Tampa, Fla. - Geno Auriemma spoke at length Saturday about how he's perceived this season: The only constant has been change.
Notable exceptions to Auriemma's observation: Kelly Faris, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stefanie Dolson, who have been the No. 3 UConn women's ambulance drivers, offering the quick pick-me-ups the Huskies have needed, sometimes desperately.
Fittingly, they all contributed something to the 85-51 win over South Florida, the victory that makes Monday's game at No. 2 Notre Dame relevant. Very relevant. As in: for the Big East regular-season championship and top seed in the upcoming Big East tournament.
Mosqueda-Lewis scored a career-high 32 points.
Faris joined the estimable company of Maya Moore as the only two players in program history to have achieved at least 1,000 points, 750 rebounds, 500 assists and 250 steals.
Dolson tied a career high with 25 points.
"If you're objectively looking at our team," Auriemma said, "Who have been the three healthiest guys who haven't missed a beat all year? Kaleena, Kelly and Stefanie. Everyone else has had issues and struggled to maintain that kind of consistency."
Mosqueda-Lewis and Dolson combined for 42 of UConn's 50 first-half points, delighting the pro-UConn crowd of 5,358 at the Sun Dome.
"They played like All-Americans," Faris said. "We came out not as strong as we would have liked, but we all tried to feed off what (Mosqueda-Lewis and Dolson) were doing. They showed how much they can impact our team."
Faris, who now occupies the same real estate as Moore, said of the accomplishment: "Stats aren't really my thing. It's cool to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Maya Moore."
The Huskies (27-2, 14-1) arrived in Tampa late Friday night and didn't reach the team hotel until about midnight. So much for enjoying sunny Florida. The team departed immediately after the game and spent the night in South Bend.
"We needed to take care of (Saturday) before Monday," Auriemma said. "We were more concerned about how we conducted ourselves today. Our whole focus was on today and getting better and building momentum, not just for Monday night but for next weekend and beyond. We're leaving here feeling pretty good about ourselves."
Even Auriemma hit the record books Saturday. The victory sent him 700 games over .500 in his career (831-131). He still has miles to go before reaching former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who is 890 games over (1,098-208).
"The cynics would tell you that I should be (700 games over), given some of the players that we've had over the years," Auriemma said. "I just feel fortunate that we've been this consistent for this long of a period of time. I certainly could not have imagined anything like that."
When an inquiring mind asked Auriemma how he's actually lost 131 games with such talent, he cracked, "Exactly. That's the question you'll have to ask (associate head coach) Chris Dailey."
South Florida (19-9, 8-7) entered Saturday's game with wins over No. 16 Louisville and No. 22 Syracuse. The Bulls also took Notre Dame to overtime.
"I thought 'maybe,'" South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said about perhaps ambushing the Huskies with the noon start. "But I read a couple of articles that came out and I knew Geno would have his guys ready. We were going to get his best shot."