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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day to remember for UConn seniors Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes

There were no tears to be shed on Saturday at Gampel Pavilion unless it came from members of visiting Memphis during UConn's emphatic 87-24 win in a game that clinched a second straight American Athletic Conference regular-season title for the mighty Huskies.

After seeing the outpouring of emotions from Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley during last year's Senior Day festivities, this year's senior duo of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes were confident enough that their emotions would be shown with beaming smiles and not with a cascade of tears. How confident? Well, they were willing to put money on it.

"Me and Kaleena made a bet, if you cry first you owe me five bucks and that was kind of the fun aspect of it," Stokes said. "We didn't want to go out, be emotional, crying because it is fun and we like to be here. The hard part is going to be whenever our last game is."

UConn could play as many as 10 more games with five of those being in the state of Connecticut. UConn is the No. 1 seed in the American Athletic Conference tournament which starts on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. UConn won't play until Saturday and will face the winner of the Cincinnati/Central Florida at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Huskies will also host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament so there are plenty of games left in Connecticut for Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes to play.

Still, the events on Saturday will stick with the duo for years to come.

Stokes came out first accompanied by her parents. Then it was time for Mosqueda-Lewis, who not only got to hold up a framed jersey which is a long-standing custom at UConn but then became the 16th women's player inducted into the Huskies of Honor.

Stokes made her seventh career start and first since a Nov. 23 game against Creighton while Mosqueda-Lewis made her 93rd career start. When the game began both seniors were tantalizingly close to milestones. Mosqueda-Lewis got there first hitting two 3-pointers in the first 1:14 to become the eighth Husky to score 2,000 points. Stokes happened to assist on both of them as part of her career-high five assists. Then with 14:50 to play Stokes recorded block No. 300 in her career joining Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters and Tina Charles as the only UConn players to reach that mark.

By game's end Mosqueda-Lewis had a game-high 21 points and her five 3-pointers moved her into sole possession of 11th place on the NCAA Division I career list. The only seniors at UConn to top Mosqueda-Lewis' 21 points in the Senior Day game are Nykesha Sales, Tina Charles, Ashley Battle, Maya Moore and Kara Wolters.

"Coach (Auriemma) told me to go out there and play like you know you can play," Stokes said. "I know I can get rebounds and block shots. That is what I really try to do. For Kaleena to get her 2,000th point off an assist from me, it is just awesome. I am glad she made it and it just shows what we have been through that I did my part, I get rebounds she made her shot."

Mosqueda-Lewis made plenty of shots. She was 8 of 11 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point range. She is now 11th on the NCAA Division I career list with 367 3-pointers leaving her 25 shy of the Division I record set by Kansas State's Laurie Koehn and Tennessee Martin's Heather Butler. If Mosqueda-Lewis continues at her current pace and the Huskies reach the American Athletic Conference and NCAA tournament finals, she would finish with 399 career 3-pointers.

Auriemma, who has coached some of the best 3-point shooters the game has ever seen, said Mosqueda-Lewis' shot is the most beautiful he has ever seen.

It is her 3-point ability which played a major role in making Mosqueda-Lewis the 16th women's player at UConn inducted into the Huskies of Honor which came at the end of the Senior Day festivities.

"Hopefully people look at it like they do all the other great players," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I was really happy to see my number go up there."

She also couldn't help but chuckle when her 4-year-old brother Xander, who accompanied her onto the court, broke away and ran into Auriemma's arms.

"I said 'are you excited?'" Mosqueda-Lewis said. "He said 'yeah.' I said 'why? This is my day.' He said 'this is great, share with me.'"

Mosqueda-Lewis was more than happy to do just that and also to share the spotlight with her fellow senior Stokes.

"Kiah is always going to look to help us before she looks for herself," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I think she has taken on that role, embraced the fact that she is going to set screens, block shots and play defense. That is what we expect from her and I am happy that she came out and played so well."

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