HOUSTON (AP) — UConn's defense is sparked the offense Friday night.
Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams each had 13 points and No. 1 UConn easily overcame a slow start for its 50th straight victory, 76-37 over Houston.
Jefferson returned after missing a victory over Tulsa on Wednesday night with a hamstring injury to help three-time defending national champion UConn (13-0, 3-0 American) overpower the Cougars (4-11, 0-4).
"I think my teammates did a good job of stepping up tonight," Jefferson said. "A lot of guys did a lot of good things, and I think it was good for us to have this test tonight."
Stewart also had six rebounds, and Williams had seven.
"There's no substitute for making shots," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I think the perception out there is that we are such a good offensive team that every time we shoot the ball, it's going in. The reality of the situation is that's not going to happen every night. Some nights you aren't going to make shots, and you are going to have to do other things."
Tyler Gilbert had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Cougars (4-11, 0-4). Houston shot 26 percent from the field en route to its fifth straight loss.
Houston coach Ronald Hughey said Auriemma is a good coach, and would find a weakness.
"It's a testament to who they are," Hughey said. "They are not No. 1 the country for nothing, and they are not three-time national champions for nothing. They know how to get through and play through spurts."
The Huskies forced 19 turnovers, including three 30-second shot clock violations, and turned that into 30 points.
"We stopped playing it safe and go at them," Williams said. "We wanted to get those breakaway layups. We wanted to get stuff in transition."
Trailing by seven with less than 3 minutes left in the first quarter, UConn responded with a 15-0 run to grab a 23-15 lead with 4:11 remaining. Jefferson had five points during the run.
"Things start defensively, so when you're getting stops on one end, you have the opportunity to get easier shots on the other end," Auriemma said. "That's what we pride ourselves on. We pride ourselves on our defense. That if we continue to get shots, eventually, the shots will fall. Going on that run made everyone take a deep breath, and (say) 'yeah, they will go in'. I think that run put everyone at ease."
Houston scored the next five points, but UConn scored the final eight points to end the half up 31-20. Stewart had five points in the half-ending spurt, including UConn's first 3-pointer of the game, and finished the half with 11 points.
The Cougars closed to 35-28 with 6:33 left in the third on Gilbert's jumper, but UConn responded with a 19-2 run to end the quarter ahead 54-30.
UConn: Morgan Tuck missed the game with right knee soreness. . Katie Lou Samuelson had 12 points and six rebounds. ... Stewart went over 2,200 points in her career. She is third on the UConn list, with Tina Charles second with 2,346 points. Stewart also had four blocks.
Houston: Bianca Winslow had a career-high six assists off the bench. ... Marche Amerson is 29 points from becoming the third 1,000-point scorer in Houston history. She had four points.
UConn: The Huskies continue a three-game trip Sunday at No. 22 South Florida.
Houston: The Cougars host SMU on Sunday.
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