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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Freshmen spark Huskies

Normally when freshmen Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck get summoned off the bench for the first time, UConn already has built up a comfortable cushion on the overmatched opponents.

However, that was certainly not the case on Saturday. Rutgers was already leading 10-4 with Shakena Richardson about to extend the advantage to eight points with a pair of free throws when an irate UConn coach Geno Auriemma yanked four of his starters with 15:34 left in play in the first half.

Rather than being up by 20 as the Huskies were when Jefferson and Tuck entered the game for the first time against Providence on Tuesday, suddenly the two talented freshman were under the gun to turn the tide for the Huskies.

They delivered as they either scored or assisted on five of the seven baskets during an 18-4 run which allowed the Huskies to erase a double-digit lead.

Tuck ended up as UConn's leading scorer for the first time as she finished with 15 points. She also had a team-high five rebounds. Jefferson followed up her 13-point performance against the Friars with 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and no turnovers. Not a bad effort for the duo especially considering that Rutgers is usually one of the toughest venues for an opposing team to play in.

"It was crazy in here, it was loud and exciting," Jefferson said. "Just come in and play hard, try to make an impact. You can't be nervous because if we are nervous we will make it even worse than it always was. I think it was kind of stay focused and whittle the lead down."

Jefferson turned the tide in the first half with a couple of key steals.

"Me and Caroline (Doty) were talking on the court and I told her I was going to try to get some steals and that helped a lot that I know if I don't get the steal that Caroline is going to have my back," Jefferson said.

With Bria Hartley not returning to the game after being pulled at the first television timeout, Jefferson started the second half. She immediately fed Stefanie Dolson in the lane resulting in Dolson being fouled and then hit a trailing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis for a 3-pointer. It was one of the first and only times UConn was able to get out and run against the defensive-minded Scarlet Knights.

"We didn't get a lot of transition baskets up to that point I thought Moriah would be able to get by whoever is guarding her, the way they were overhelping," Auriemma said. "That was just a good play by Moriah to find Kaleena."

One of the most encouraging signs from Tuck was the way she played pressure free ball. On one play she attempted and made a 3 without hesitation and on another occasion she had the ball at the high post and blew by her defender en route to the basket.

"I can't over think it," Tuck said. "I kind of have to do it even if I mess up Coach says I have to be decisive if I am making a mistake I am at least making a mistake hard, trying to do something.

"I have been struggling lately. My teammates, they have been trying to help me get confidence, talk to me and help me as much as possible."

Auriemma said Hartley has been sick and that was why she never came back into the game.

Now the Huskies have one day to get ready for the Baylor game. It was pretty evident that Auriemma wasn't thrilled with having to travel to Rutgers right before the test against the reigning national champions.

"The Big East thinks we are Superman," Auriemma said. "We can play at Rutgers on Saturday and have Baylor on Monday because we are just better than everybody else and we can handle that. I remember Notre Dame's game at Providence before they were at Tennessee so we are just held to a higher standard than everybody else. We just have to do what we have to do. It is not an easy place to pay under any circumstances and especially when you have a Saturday/Monday like we have and it does take a lot out of you."


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