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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Stewart lights it up for UConn

Even before the ball was tipped off UConn coach Geno Auriemma had a pretty good sense that his prized freshman Breanna Stewart was due to erupt.

Auriemma had seen a different player in practices this week than the one who let uncertainty creep into her game. Watching her soar near the rim for rebound after rebound and scoring at will both inside and out, Auriemma was anxious to see what she could do.

What she did was finish with 21 points (on 9 of 12 shooting) which is the third highest total for a UConn freshman in their Big East tournament debut to go with six rebounds and a blocked shot. Her 26 minutes were the most for the UConn reserves.

"I really tried to refocus myself, just go as hard as I can in practice because I know something has to show on the court," Stewart said.
"I just changed my mindset I guess. I was going a lot harder in practice and things had a better feel, there would be some times I would see myself getting stuck in a situation where yesterday I would do something else to fight through. If I was unsure about a situation, I would second-guess myself. I am really trying to not second-guess myself, go out and try to make an aggressive move.

"I really did simplify things, not thinking about so many things at once and thinking about what I want to do on the court."

The only UConn freshmen to score more in their first Big East tournament game were Stefanie Dolson (24 points in 2011) and Diana Taurasi (22 in 2001).

She was not the only freshman to impress in the game for the Huskies.

Moriah Jefferson drew her first career start and 12 points, three rebounds and three assists while Morgan Tuck had nine points, four rebounds and two steals.

Jefferson, who cut her chin crashing to the court in Thursday's practice, almost drew more blood when she collided with the table on press row.

"That was interesting," Jefferson said. "It wasn't as bad as I thought, I just laid there because I was caught up in the (cloth)."

Auriemma has been using Morgan Tuck recently in the starting lineup before switching up. Jefferson is a natural point guard who allows Bria Hartley to play her more natural off guard position. It seemed to work pretty well as Hartley had 12 points, five rebounds and five assists.

"Everybody's got a specific role to play on our team and one of the thing we tried to impress upon on Moriah is your body type and what God gave you, that is how you can help your team so if you are the quickest player out on the floor then those are the types of plays out on the court that you have to make," Auriemma said. "She made a couple great plays tonight that only she can make with her quickness and she took advantage of those skills. There were a lot of times where we were really disappointed in Moriah because she has all his talent, all this quickness and she would never use it in practice, never a little bit, not medium, not a lot. She probably got more done in this game tonight than she has in a long, long time."

If assistant coach Shea Ralph is a candidate for the Clemson job, that is news to Auriemma. I asked him about the scuttlebutt that had her as a viable candidate for that job.

"I didn't even know the Clemson job is open and Shea hasn't said anything to me about it so I would think any job that opens Shea is going to be a candidate for," Auriemma said.

UConn commit Saniya Chong had 41 points and nine 3-pointers (giving her 102 this season) to lead the Ossining (N.Y.) team to a 79-50 win over Monroe-Woodbury as the Pride advanced to the New York Class AA semifinals.

Chong also moved by former University of Virginia star Tammi Reiss and former Syracuse star Beth Record and into fourth place on New York's career scoring list. More importantly, she has the Pride within two wins of a state title.

Ossining will play Sachem East on Friday at 6:15 p.m. at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy in one semifinal. Last year Ossining was eliminated by Stewart's Cicero-North Syracuse team  Cicero-North Syracuse returned to the Final Four even after the graduation of Stewart as they play Gates Chili in Friday's other semifinal.

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