West Virginia coach Mike Carey warned his young team how tough and physical play would be in the Big East.
And there’s nothing like playing No. 2 Connecticut to drive home that point.
Bria Hartley scored 18 points and the Huskies extended their NCAA-record home winning streak to 93 games with a 79-60 win over the Mountaineers Wednesday night.
Five players scored in double figures for UConn (12-1, 2-0 Big East), which broke open a close game in the second half.
The teams combined for 42 turnovers and 36 personal fouls.
“I told them, man, ‘This is what I told you the Big East was about,”’ Carey said. “This is what the Big East is about and you’ve got to learn from this. And tomorrow on film, we’re going to learn.”
Asya Bussie had 17 of her 19 points in the second half and Christal Caldwell added 17 points to lead West Virginia (10-4, 1-1), which has lost 24 straight games to Connecticut after winning the first contest between the two schools back in 1982.
Kelly Faris had 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and six steals for the Huskies. Tiffany Hayes had 13 points, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 12 and Caroline Doty chipped in 11.
It was the 44th consecutive Big East win for UConn and its 24th consecutive win in conference home openers.
UConn led just 34-27 at halftime, but opened the second half on a 9-1 run, holding the Mountaineers without a field goal for the first 6 1/2 minutes after intermission.
“It’s always a tough game when we play them,” said Hayes. “They always come out trying to punch us first and they are always physical down in the post trying to get rebounds.”
Hartley appeared to injure her left elbow when she crashed to the floor early in the second half, but returned 3 minutes later.
She hit a spinning shot in the lane as the shot clock was expiring to give the Huskies a 48-33 lead. A 3-pointer, followed by a steal and a layup with just under 7 minutes left stretched the lead to 62-45.
Connecticut center Stefanie Dolson was just 1 of 6 from the floor and Mosqueda-Lewis — a freshman — missed her first seven shots.
“That’s one good thing for us is that even if we do have a spurt where we’re not doing well, eventually we’ll come back and we’ll have our run,” Faris said.
Connecticut pressed West Virginia early, opening a 12-3 lead while forcing 10 early turnovers.
But West Virginia also plays stingy defense, and fought back. The Mountaineers tied the game at 18 on a steal and layup by Jess Harlee.
UConn reeled off the next eight points, but the Mountaineers kept it close. A jumper from just inside 3-point range by West Virginia’s Brooke Hampton beat the halftime buzzer to cut the lead to seven.
The Mountaineers held UConn to 37 percent shooting in the first half, but made just 2 of their 11 attempts from beyond the arc and had 18 of their 29 turnovers before halftime.
“Our guards on the offensive end stood and held the ball too much,” said Carey. “We weren’t moving the ball, dribbled it too much, didn’t pass. Our spacing was not good.”
Connecticut came into the game with an average margin of victory this season of just over 39 points.
The Huskies also lead the nation in scoring defense, giving up just over 41 points a game, while West Virginia had yielded an average of just 45 points — good for third in the nation behind UConn and South Carolina.
The Huskies have won three straight since being beaten by top-ranked Baylor in Waco, Texas, on Dec. 18.
The Mountaineers had won three in a row, including an 84-36 rout of Elon in their last game on New Year’s Eve.
Connecticut hit just four of its 20 3-point attempts, but held West Virginia to 3-of-19 shooting from behind the arc.
Doty, who hadn’t turned the ball over since a Nov. 27 win over Dayton, had four of UConn’s 13 turnovers.
Connecticut hasn’t lost a home game since a 55-47 loss to Rutgers in the 2007 Big East tournament. The Huskies also have won 57 consecutive Big East regular-season games since losing to Rutgers in 2008. The Huskies are now 164-2 in their last 166 conference home games.
The Huskies face their toughest conference test on Saturday, traveling to No. 3 Notre Dame. It will be the first game between the two rivals since the Irish beat UConn in last year’s Final Four.