STORRS, Conn. -- UConn coach Geno Auriemma sent a message to his starters on Sunday, pulling the entire group 4 ½ minutes into what was expected to be an easy win over an injury-depleted South Florida team.
The third-ranked Huskies, who trailed by as many as eight points in the first half, eventually shook off their sluggish start to beat the Bulls 63-46.
"I've got a very immature team, I think," Auriemma said. "That shows up in the inconsistency some times."
Katie Lou Samuelson scored 19 points to become the 10th UConn player ever to reach the 2,000-point milestone. Megan Walker added 14 points and Napheesa Collier had 12 for the Huskies (14-1, 3-0 American), who have never suffered a conference loss in the AAC.
Enna Pehadzic had 17 points and 12 rebounds for USF (10-7, 1-2), which led for most of the first half and trailed by just six points at the half. Tamara Henshaw added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
USF was leading 6-4 when Auriemma sat all the starters at once, resulting in an audible gasp and then applause from the crowd.
The Bulls proceeded to build their lead to 14-6, after a 3-pointer Pehadzic.
"We've come up here with much more talented teams and didn't rebound and defend as well," said USF coach Jose Fernandez, whose team outrebounded UConn 42-26. "It's great to get a lot of our younger kids some time. We just right now don't have enough guys that can put the ball in the basket."
UConn's starters returned in the second quarter. The Huskies retook the lead at 20-18 on a layup by Walker and never trailed again.
A third-quarter steal by Christyn Williams led to a fast-break layup from Samuelson, which put her over 2,000 points and gave UConn a 44-24 lead.
"We knew that we were going to get another chance at some point during the game to kind of fix what we started and that's what we did when we got back in there," Samuelson said.
USF is 0-27 against UConn, going back to when both teams were in the Big East. The Bulls are far from alone. UConn is 104-0 against the rest of the American Athletic Conference since its formation in 2013, including 89-0 in the regular season.
The Bulls, who have lost three players for the season with injuries, dressed just eight players for the game. Senior Laura Ferreira, who had been scoring just under 16 points, missed her second straight game and is listed as out indefinitely with an undisclosed illness. Fernandez declined to give any update on her status after the game.
UConn: Samuelson joined Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Nykesha Sales, Kerry Bascom, Diana Taurasi, Kara Wolters and Rebecca Lobo in the 2,000-point club.
BENT ON IMPROVEMENT
With Williams struggling (no points, 0-for-2 from the floor), UConn junior guard Molly Bent played a career-high 21 minutes on Sunday. That's almost three times her career average. She scored six points, hitting both her 3-point attempts and added 3 assists and two steals. Auriemma called her effort the best part of the game.
"I don't have the talent that some of these other guys have," Bent said. "Today, to be able to knock in a couple of shots, to make a couple of hustle plays, I didn't make as many as I should have, but it's a lot of fun getting that opportunity."
HE SAID IT
Auriemma made it clear he was not happy with his team's effort:
"It's gotten to the point where coaching, you just make suggestions, you can't tell people what you want them to do," he said. "You make a suggestion and if they want to do it they do it. If they don't, they don't. So, I suggested that they sit down. So, we're even, one-to-one."
USF: The Bulls are off until Saturday, when they host Tulane
UConn's next opponent also is Tulane. UConn will play the Green Wave on the road Wednesday night.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25