UConn guard Tiffany Hayes drives the ball in the first half against South Florida.

The patented knockout run never came for the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team on the run. The South Florida Bulls weren’t going away. So something had to give.

That something turned out to be the play of senior Tiffany Hayes.

After scoring a career-high 35 points her last time out, Hayes was doing her best to outscore the Bulls in the second half. She ended up scoring 22 of her 33 points in the second half to help the Huskies beat the Bulls 77-62 in front of 13,627 at the XL Center in Hartford, CT on Saturday afternoon.

With the win, the No. 3 Huskies improve to 19-2 (8-1 Big East). The Bulls fall to 12-10 (4-4).

Hayes, who played all but one minute in the game, also added 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals. Stefanie Dolson had a great down in the post as she put up her first double-double of the season with 22 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. She also had three assists and three blocked shots.

Despite a rough shooting afternoon, Bria Hartley had eight points, six rebounds and a team-high six assists.

Caitlin Rowe paced the Bulls with a career-high 20 points while Inga Orekhova had 16 points and five rebounds. Jasmine Wynne added 13 points, four rebounds and four assists.

The Huskies went to Dolson early and often at the start of the game as she scored the eight of the first 10 points the team scored. But the Ukranian Orekhova kept the Bulls in this one with her three point shooting. With UConn holding a 14-10 lead, Orekhova hit two three-pointers, including one that she was fouled on to put USF in front 17-14.

UConn would use a 12-0 run to open up a nine point lead at 26-17. The Huskies would push their lead to 10 points but the Bulls would not go away. They would battle back and cut UConn’s lead down to three points at 36-33 going into the break.

USF would cut the lead to one right away out of halftime but UConn would use a 17-5 run to take control. While the Huskies wouldn’t get their biggest lead of the game at 17 points until late in the second half, their lead would hover in the low double digits for the rest of the way. They did this behind the play of Hayes who at one point had scored the same amount of points that the Bulls had in the second half (17).

Establishing Dolson early in this game was key for the Huskies. I’ve said in the past if you can get her going the rest of the offense will come. That’s what happened on Saturday.

Right now Hayes is probably playing the best basketball of her four-year career in a UConn uniform. She’s playing with no fear right and there’s probably not anyone out there in the country who can guard her. She’s driving to the hoop and getting fouled, converting her free throws which is something head coach Geno Auriemma likes to see.

The Huskies won’t have long to enjoy this win. They’ll get right back to it tomorrow in practice in prepartion for Monday’s game in Durham, NC where they’ll take on the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will televised nationally on ESPN2.

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Notes and musings:

South Florida Bulls @ UConn Huskies 1.28.12 box score

Here are the postgame quotes from UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and USF coach Jose Fernandez. There are also player quotes there as well.

The starting five for the Huskies was the same one for all but one game this season. It was Bria Hartley, Caroline Doty, Tiffany Hayes, Kelly Faris and Stefanie Dolson.

Hayes’ 68 points in the last two games is the most in UConn women’s basketball history.

Hayes is now 13th on UConn’s all-time scoring list with 1,589 points. She passed Swin Cash on Saturday (1,583).

This was UConn’s 97th consecutive home win and 59th straight Big East home win.

The Huskies have won 172 straight games against unranked opponents.

The win for Auriemma was his 790th which is sixth best all time in NCAA Women’s Basketball history.

UConn shot 43.5% (27-62) from the floor while the Bulls shot 32.8% (21-64).

The Huskies had 19 assists on their 27 made baskets.

UConn was 19-of-21 (90.5%) at the free throw line. Both misses were by Hayes who went 11-of-13.

The Huskies were just 4-of-20 (20%) from beyond the arc. The Bulls were much better there going 10-of-26 (38.5%). Inga Orekhova (5) and Caitlin Rowe (4) combined for nine of them.

UConn dominated the boards, outrebounding USF 53-28.

The Huskies outscored the Bulls 32-16 in the paint while USF outscored UConn 11-6 in the paint.

UConn had 22 second chance points to just eight for the Bulls.

The Huskies had 16 points off of 12 USF turnovers. The Bulls had 17 points off of 18 UConn turnovers.

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Photo credit: David Butler II – US Presswire (No. 5 in gallery)