STORRS, Conn. — Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons believes his Crusaders are a better team after playing No. 4 Connecticut on Sunday.
Brisje Malone, Alex Smith and Amy Lemply had eight points apiece in the 77-37 loss to the Huskies. That's 40 points better than the 117-37 pounding the team took from UConn a year ago.
The Crusaders (0-2), who lost their season opener Friday at Yale 76-71, played this game without center Emily Parker, who scored 17 against the Bulldogs but was held out Sunday as a precaution to rest a knee injury she suffered in the preseason.
"I really thought we competed," Gibbons said. "The Parker kid didn't play and I think she would have helped us. But I would have been stupid to play her against these type of athletes, and the doctor and I talked about that."
Bria Hartley scored 17 points and Tiffany Hayes added 16 for UConn, in the Huskies' first game since the graduation of Maya Moore. Stephanie Dolson added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies (1-0), who extended their home winning streak to an NCAA-record 84 games.
"We do have enough guys that can help us on any given day, but instead of it being the way it was, it's just going to be a little bit different," coach Geno Auriemma said. "Those 50 points might be spread out among three or four people this year instead of just one or two, which I think, in the end, might make us a better team."
UConn held Holy Cross to 23 percent shooting, including 18 percent in the first half as the Huskies jumped out to a 32-6 lead.
The Huskies opened with a 9-0 run while forcing Holy Cross to miss its first six shots. The Crusaders' first field goal came 6 minutes in on a 3-pointer by Meredith Ward that made it 12-4. But Holy Cross closed the half with a 10-2 run to make it 38-17 at intermission.
"People say I'm nuts playing this game, and maybe last year they were right 'cause we didn't compete," Gibbons said. "I thought we competed this year. I thought, 'We're better now' ... I thought we showed some spunk, some 'it' that's going to make us a better team.' "
UConn's Caroline Doty, who sat out last season with her third major knee injury, scored nine points and played 22 minutes in her first game back since the 2010 national championship game. She received a medical red shirt last year and has played in just 57 of the 117 games since arriving in Storrs in 2008. Doty missed her first two shots, but made consecutive 3-pointers to give UConn a 24-6 lead.
"It felt great just to hear the crowd go crazy," she said. "It just felt great to be back. We were just having so much fun on the court together again, and today was a reason to show why I love basketball so much. It was just great."
Freshman reserve Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had seven points and seven rebounds in her first collegiate game.
Connecticut last lost at home in the 2007 Big East tournament championship game to Rutgers. The NCAA counts games played in the postseason in Hartford and Storrs as home games for the Huskies.
The Huskies are 26-1 under Auriemma in home openers, and 22-4 in season-opening games.
UConn also improved to 20-2 against Holy Cross and has won the last 19 meetings. The two teams have played each other each year since Gibbons became head coach in 1985, but that contract runs out this year.
"Half the people I talk to say, 'You've got to end it,' and half the people say, 'You gotta keep playing it," said Gibbons. "I'm going to talk to my assistants, talk to my AD, talk to myself, talk to Geno. But, this won't be the last time we'll play."
The loss leaves Gibbons still four wins to reach 500 for his career.