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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stewart's monster game powers UConn past Cal

There was a sense of "haven't we seen this before" as Breanna Stewart scored UConn's first seven points and 13 of the team's first 16 minutes in Sunday's dominating win over No. 21 California.

Stewart started off Monday's Duke game in similarly dynamic fashion but also had stretches were she was barely noticeable offensively. Obviously, UConn coach Geno Auriemma might have mentioned that fact once or twice this week.

This time when Stewart started to get rolling she did not ease up. Stewart matched her career high with 29 points and had she not sat out the final 12:49, there's no telling what her final point total would have been.

"The first 10 minutes was pretty ugly as a team," Stewart said. "Obviously we struggled getting things going and I was trying to be more aggressive just to help get the team going, help get some points on the board and I am happy everybody else followed "

Auriemma spoke in almost reverent tones about the talent that Stewart, the dynamic 6-foot-4 sophomore from Syracuse, N.Y., possesses following the game.

"We've never had anybody like her," Auriemma said. "We've had some of the greatest players to ever play college basketball and we have never had anybody like her.

"Maya Moore was unique, Diana Taurasi was unique, Tina Charles was unique, we have had an incredible amount of great, great, great players but I don't think we've ever had anybody who has all the God given things that Breanna has. The 6-4 kids we have had have been great around the basket and do a couple of things great and all the great perimeter players that we had were really good. She is just somebody that because you can't describe her, what she does it makes her an impossible matchup for people. Unless you have a really athletic 6-4 kid that you can put on her for 40 minutes, you can't stop her from scoring because any big kid she is just too quick and any guard she just shoots over you. We have talked about getting her 20 shots a game. I have never done that with any other player so that is one thing she has to get better at, finding shots. The ball usually finds great players. With Stewie being on a great team, sometimes we have had to orchestrate things for her to make sure she gets shots at the end of the half."

There were some impressive shots made by UConn on Sunday afternoon, most of them delivered by Stewart. However, I don't think any drew the same exuberant reaction from the UConn coaches and players than the final one.

Freshman walk-on Tierney Lawlor connected with a 3-pointer with 18 seconds to play and as she delivered an emotional fist pump on her down the court, a huge smile came to the face of Auriemma and the star players on the bench rose together in unison in celebration of Lawlor's special moment.

"That is unbelievable isn’t it?” Auriemma said. “I looked up at the scoreboard and I thought maybe the score was 78-77 and that was the game-winner, because that kid acted like that was the shot of the century. And you know what? That is what sports are all about. A kid like that. You think that last year that kid was sitting at home going, ‘You know what? Next year at Christmastime, I am going to be at Madison Square Garden and I am going to knock in a three on my only shot attempt.’ You’ve got to be crazy. The kid is living a dream. God bless her, she deserves it, because she works her butt off every day in practice. The kids love her. The kids’ reaction was probably just as great as hers.”

The soft-spoken three-sport start at Ansonia High's reaction was typically understated.

"It was awesome," Lawlor said. "I was excited it went in.  It was a great feeling."


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