— The most startling facet of the preseason for the No. 2 UConn women was the realization that not one of their 224 points came from All-America Bria Hartley.
Hartley is out with a badly sprained ankle, her return date undetermined. And yet, even without her, the depth and versatility that remain promises to spin the head of the Huskies' opponents.
On Sunday, the 2012-13 season's opening day, the dubious honor of being the first opponent to dip its toe into the shark-filled water was the College of Charleston.
And frankly, the next two hours were filled with enough gore to divert your gaze as the Huskies steamrolled the Cougars 103-39 before a crowd of 6,221 at Gampel Pavilion.
"I can feel the energy on this team," center Stefanie Dolson said. "We're having fun, and we are managing to do it while still staying intense. There is a positivity that have … It's like no challenge coach gives us is too hard."
You may have heard of Breanna Stewart, the nation's consensus high school player of the year last season. Coach Geno Auriemma thinks she could one of the best players UConn has ever recruited.
Now we know why. Stewart made her debut by leading six Huskies in double figures with 21 points (8 of 11). She had five rebounds and four steals.
In program history, only Maya Moore scored as many in her debut.
"Breanna is the one player we have who is able to change the game," Auriemma said. "No one has an answer for her or what she can do."
That compliment put a huge smile on her face.
"I appreciate that comment very much," Stewart said. "I just want to keep working hard and try to improve."
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 19 points (5 of 10 from three), five steals, four assists and eight rebounds. Morgan Tuck began her career with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists.
"It was all pretty much what I imagined after watching UConn play for so many years," Tuck said. "I couldn't wait to be the one people were watching."
The Huskies shot 63.6 percent from the floor (42 of 66) and made 9 of 19 threes. They outrebounded the Cougars 44-28 and forced 25 turnovers, off which they scored 40. They also assisted on 32 of the baskets.
"There was a lot of efficiency in what we did," Auriemma said.
Let's put it this way: The Cougars (1-1) scored the first and last basket of the first half. UConn scored 57 of the other 66 points to lead 57-13 at the half.
Kelly Faris put them over 100 with a layup with 2:21 to play.
Mosqueda-Lewis made three three-pointers in the first two minutes as UConn opened a 13-2 lead after Charleston's Latisha Harris (13 points) scored the first basket of the season to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead. UConn scored the next 19.
Charleston's Alyssa Frye (14 points) made a three to bring Charleston within 9-5, and then Harris cut the lead to 12. UConn scored the next 22.
Auriemma addressed the first big issue by adding Stewart and Caroline Doty (10 points) to the starting lineup to join Dolson, Mosqueda-Lewis and Kelly Faris.
But it didn't matter who was on the floor. The points came from all possible venues; from the perimeter (six threes) and off the pressure that forced 16 first-half turnovers and led to 23 points.
The Huskies made 22 of 35 shots in the half, and eight players scored. Stewart scored 10 in the half with four steals and a block. Tuck had six points, five assists and three assists in her first 12 minutes.
And Moriah Jefferson, who entered for the first time with 15:43 to play in the first half, proved deft with the ball, setting up Tuck's first points with a nice drop pass. She also was responsible for four of UConn's seven turnovers, but made just one in the second half.
The second half proved no different. Stewart scored the first six points to give UConn's lead more heft (63-18) with 17:29 to play.
Another of UConn's new toys is the high-low offense, which Stewart's presence makes more fluid. Dolson spent of much of last season fending off brutes under the boards.
Dolson was so free on Sunday that she dished a career-high eight assists to go along with 11 points and nine rebounds.
"I don't know how many points we can score, even when Bria returns," Auriemma said. "There's still an inexperience factor. I think we scored eight points in the last eight minutes, so we'll go through stretches when things do not look so great.
"But from what I say today, I don't think scoring points will be a problem."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times