By Rob Maaddi
The Associated Press
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Even a conference opponent couldn't give Connecticut a challenge.
Tina Charles had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Mel Thomas added 16 points, leading the top-ranked Huskies to an 88-38 victory over Villanova on Thursday night in the Big East opener for both teams.
Connecticut (12-0, 1-0) cruised to its 25th consecutive regular-season victory and its 206th straight win against unranked opponents. The Huskies have beaten 10 teams by at least 30 points this season, including three straight wins by more than 45 points.
The 50-point margin was the largest in the series history.
""I didn't think the final score was going to be what it is,' UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ""Big East games aren't supposed to be easy. We just wanted to come in here and be better at the end of the game than at the beginning.'
Collins Hill grad Maya Moore had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for the Huskies. Maria Getty led Villanova (10-4, 0-1) with 12 points.
The game was competitive for about 61â "2 minutes. Then the Huskies completely took control. UConn broke open a 10-all tie with a 26-3 run that stretched over a span of 7:15.
""After the first five or six minutes, we showed we're still very inexperienced,' Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. ""They're so fast and athletic, even if we made the right pass, we still couldn't get a shot.'
Charles started the spurt with a jumper, and five different players followed with baskets. Thomas nailed a 3-pointer to make it 29-12, and Charles' layup gave the Huskies a 23-point lead.
""I just wanted to dominate as much as I can,' Charles said.
UConn led 47-15 at halftime, the same score at the half in Monday's 82-33 rout of Army. The Huskies continued their dominance after the break, allowing Auriemma to give his reserves plenty of minutes in the second half.
An aggressive zone defense caused many problems for Villanova, which struggled to get a shot off nearly every possession in the first half. The Wildcats shot just 26.9 percent (14-for-52) and had 12 turnovers. UConn had a tremendous advantage on the boards, outrebounding Villanova 57-17.
""Our defense wasn't perfect, but we did a great job covering up each other's mistakes,' Huskies guard Renee Montgomery said.
It was a homecoming for Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown, a Philadelphia suburb, and graduated from West Chester in 1981.
""There's a lot of people that you see and that never grows old,' Auriemma said. ""I do have a lot more friends now that they see me on television.'
UConn sophomore Meghan Gardler scored in the final minute in her return home. Gardler, from nearby Springfield, missed her first four shots before hitting a jumper to draw applause from her cheering section that consisted of more than 50 fans. Gardler's father, Bud Gardler, coached Auriemma in high school.