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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Yet another monster game from UConn's Breanna Stewart

Louisville Jeff Walz, never one to hold back from delivering a one-liner, couldn't help but retort that the injury-plagued UConn women's basketball team is in such dire straits because Geno Auriemma has to play Breanna Stewart 37 minutes.

He was certainly not laughing when the national player of the year candidate drained a pair of 3-pointers 32 seconds apart to break open what was a five-point game.

Stewart finished with a game-high 24 points and added 10 rebounds and six assists in the 81-64 victory.

"She is a special player, she is the best player in the country in my opinion," Walz said. "What she does is when you have breakdowns, she makes you pay for them. We cut it to a five-point game in the first half, we allow her to catch the ball at the free-throw line, catch it and shoot it. We tell our kids either keep a hand in her face or let her drive it and make her shoot a contested pull-up because that is not her strength. We had our hands down and we got caught on a pin down when a kid fell down and she hit the back to back 3s, it is big-time shots.

"Our goal was to have it a five or six point game either way and we had it right there until we gave them back to back 3s. What you have to do is get it to 10 minutes to go in the second half where they shots still matter because when you are up 15, everybody can make a shot but if it is a 5-6 point game all of a sudden that basket becomes a lot smaller and the pressure starts to build. That is something that they have not had to face yet so that was our goal."

The first of Stewart's back to back 3s was one that only a select few players could have made. She caught the ball with her back to the basket, turned and hit the 3.

"I was faking a handoff," Stewart said. "I wanted to see how the girl was playing me. If she wasn't up on me on the handoff so I knew once I turned I would be able to get the shot off. When the first one went in I was feeling a little bit more confident, looking to make an aggressive play."

With the 24 points Stewart now has 983 points and could  become the 39th player (and fifth sophomore) to score 1,000 points.

But in the eyes of her head coach, it is not how many points she scores but when she scores them.

"Some people score a lot of points, she scores them exactly when you need them," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You look at the end of the game and somebody got 24 points, 16 of them were meaningless. Everyone of her points seem to mean something. It is like a guy who hits two home runs when the score is 12-3, who cares. She hits three-run homers when we are down two and that is what separates her from everybody else."

UConn senior guard Bria Hartley needs one assist to become the 10th UConn player with 500 career assists and with seven rebounds she will join Maya Moore as the only Husky with at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 200 steals. Among active players, only Winthrop's Dequesha McClanahan and UT Martin's Jasmine Newsome are in that club although Louisville's Shoni Schimmel needs six more rebounds to hit that plateau.

Speaking of Hartley, with her 33 minutes played against Louisville she passed Diana Taurasi to move into sixth place on UConn's career charts for minutes played. Hartley has 4,213 minutes played in 139 games. Next up is Kelly Faris at 4,258 which could happen in the next home game against Central Florida.

During his time at UConn he has not had any issues with his players getting into shoving matches with opposing fans but that doesn't mean that Geno Auriemma doesn't have an opinion on what happened between Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart and Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr.

"In general student-athletes are held to a different standard than normal people. It is neither fair or unfair, it just is," Auriemma said. "You get a scholarship to play basketball, football or any other sport it is like all of a sudden you sign away whatever freedoms you thought you had in college. Now you can't react like a normal human being. If somebody says something, you can't react. If somebody does something, you can't react. This kid wants to go out one night and have a good time, you can't go with him. All of a sudden people, especially adults, can say and do whatever the hell they want to a college kid on the floor knowing that kid has no recourse, they have to take it. I don't necessarily agree with that but that is the world and somebody pays 20 bucks to watch a college basketball game and they think it gives them the right to be an idiot. If you're an idiot, you don't need to pay 20 bucks to prove it, that is my take on it. I feel bad for the kid."

Smart was suspended three games for pushing Orr.


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