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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Young post players could decide outcome of UConn/Maryland game

Maryland's Tianna Hawkins is a self-made player who has put herself in position to be a possible lottery pick in next month's WNBA draft while UConn's Stefanie Dolson will likely be one of the first post players off the board in the 2014 draft.

However, it could be some of the dynamic post players younger teammates who ultimately make the difference in tomorrow's Sweet 16 game.

UConn's Breanna Stewart could be in line to make her 11th career start or perhaps the UConn coaching staff will go with classmate Morgan Tuck or sophomore to try to match up with the Terrapins' towering front line. Meanwhile, freshman Malina Howard is the only healthy reserve over 6-feet tall.

With a trip in the regional final on the line, there can be no time for rookie jitters.

There certainly has been ample opportunities for UConn's young post players to get into a groove as Dolson has practiced on a limited basis due to issues with her right ankle and left foot.



"We talked to the post coaches and they were  telling us how Stef was not going to be in practice so we had to really step up," Stewart said.

When the teams met on Dec. 3 in Hartford, Stokes and Tuck combined to play just 15 minutes and they finished with a total of two points and four rebounds.



"Maryland is a physical team and Stef is our main post option right now but with me, Stewie and Tuck we really have to get our act together to help out because she can't do it by herself," Stokes said.

The promising sign is that Stewart, Stokes and Tuck have had impressive practices leading into tomorrow's game.


"They have had to step up and they have gotten more reps," UConn assistant coach Marisa Moseley said. "Stef is such an integral part of what we do that I think those guys know how much we rely on her and how much we need them as well so I think they really have stepped up. Obviously Stewie and Morgan as freshmen have really given us some big minutes especially for their first time (in the NCAA tournament) and Kiah always seems to finish strong. She may be up and down during the season but she has finished well in the last couple of years.

"For Stewie, the first time we played Maryland it was our first ACC game and second game (against a ranked team). I think having gone through 34 games with us and knowing what the expectation of what they could do and really the Big East tournament for  both of them they kind of came into their own a little bit. I think they have come out somewhat and maybe they continue to come out and I think it is just going to be a team effort offensively and defensively."

Howard, a one-time UConn recruiting target, was held scoreless against UConn during the regular season although she did have six rebounds in 15 minutes.



"We have gone through so many injuries and it was our first game without Laurin (Mincy) so I think was definitely a learning experience for us and it was the beginning of the freshman year and I was learning how physical the college game is," Howard said. "Now I have some great teammates and great coaches who taught me along the way to realize how physical it is and how to play the physical aspect of the game."



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