Doty Returns in Style

STORRS – These were the things that motivated Caroline Doty during the lonely and painful moments of rehabilitation. There was the thought of running on the floor at Gampel Pavilion and hearing the cheers again. There was the dream of launching a three-pointer and watching the ball perfectly swish through the net.

And ultimately, Doty longed to be part of the team again, enjoying the unified effort that goes into victory.

Doty made her return to the Huskies Sunday afternoon and experienced all the above as No. 4 Connecticut opened the season by dominating Holy Cross 77-37. Bria Hartley led the way 17 points. Tiffany Hayes had 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals. Center Stefanie Dolson contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.

There was plenty of praise to go around. But on the day the Huskies were officially forced to put the Maya Moore era behind them, things seemed a bit more joyful thanks to the celebration of Doty's return.

The popular junior guard has endured three serious knee injuries during her career. A sprained left ankle delayed her comeback a little bit longer, but on this particular afternoon, it was worth the wait.

"It was awesome," Doty said. "I was ready to go and be out there with my team. All the hard work finally paid off. It felt great."

The last time she had played in a game was the 2010 NCAA national championship and the crowd of 6,548 gave her a thunderous ovation when she was the last member of the lineup introduced Sunday. She missed her first two field goal attempts, but with 11:11 left in the first half she hit a three for her first official points in 19 months.

The crowd went wild again. Which moment felt best?

"I'd say both," said Doty, who finished with nine points, five rebounds, and three assists in 22 minutes. "The introduction felt great, just to be back out on the floor and to have the fans supporting us. After that first shot, it just felt great to be back. That's the moment, the feeling that everyone wants."

Five seconds into the game, Doty found herself on the floor. But before the crowd could gasp in concern, she was back on her feet and into the flow.

"It was more like a scare, kind of a ‘Fooled ya!' type thing," Doty said. "I really don't know what happened. I just fell. It hurt a little bit, but I bounced back up and I was fine."

Dolson say Doty go down and couldn't believe it.

"I was like, ‘Really, Caroline?' " Dolson said. "But I love [playing with her]. We have a great relationship off the court. I can't tell you I was just as excited as her, because I can't imagine how excited she was. But she did a great job. And I was so proud."

Coach Geno Auriemma has seen it all before with Doty.

"She's been all over the floor in practice," he said. "She was excited about being out there. You know, when you haven't played in so long, it isn't easy to get back into it. No matter how much you practice or how many days you prepare, it's not the same as being in a game. I thought she was great and did a lot of really good things.

"That's good because we have a lot of players in the backcourt that are more scorers than they are playmakers. We need certain ones to be playmakers."

During his halftime interview that was shown on the Gampel video board, Auerimma talked about how happy he was to have Doty back because she worked so hard to get there. He said the Huskies are a different team without her on the floor.

After hitting that first shot, Doty wasn't thinking about being a playmaker. Just 28 seconds later, she hit another three to give UConn a 24-6 lead. She had six points and two assists in the first half as the Huskies built a 38-17 halftime lead on 51.9 percent shooting.

"I wish we had finished the game a little better," said Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons, who watched his team lose to UConn 117-37 last season. "We competed. I was nervous about coming down here and being deer in the headlights again.

"They're not as good [without Moore]. She was such a settling influence when they needed a play. I think Doty, when she gets healthy, can do that for them and give them that swagger."

Doty stole the show away from the UConn freshmen, who figure to become a big part of this team. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had seven points (on 3-for-12 shooting) and seven rebounds. Kiah Stokes had four points and four rebounds. And Brianna Banks had two points and two rebounds.

"All in all, I thought they were OK," Auriemma said of the freshmen. "Not anything great, but they were OK.

"We don't look the same [without Moore]. I think it's going to be an ongoing thing all season long. Because when Maya walked out on the court, it's like Muhammad Ali walking into the ring. You can't ignore it. It's right there in your face. And right now we don't have anyone who kind of replaces that."

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