Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Some thoughts the day after UConn/South Carolina tilt

In many I wasn't too surprised with what I saw last night.

Other than Kia Nurse, the other six players in the main rotation (Gabby Williams played sparingly due to tough matchup issues for her) had been members of one or two national championship teams. Players like Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck know what it takes to play and excel in a big game and they acted like it.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma was quick to credit Morgan Tuck's aggressive mindset early for setting the tone. The mercurial Jefferson also set the tone early, set the tone in the middle of the game and set the tone late. People can talk about her speed and decision making which are both rather extraordinary, but Jefferson's toughness is something to behold. It is not an easy thing for a player her size to emerge out of a pack of 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 players with rebounds or drive to the basket knowing her tender back is more likely than not to be slammed into the basketball support. Mosqueda-Lewis did what she does - hit five 3-pointers to move into a tie for 15th on the NCAA career list but contributed so much more. When she headed to the bench for the final time, assistant coach Shea Ralph leaned over to say something to her and Mosqueda-Lewis cracked a huge smile. She deserved that moment. Then there is Breanna Stewart. The only concern I had with her was that she has shown the tendency to pick up silly fouls at times this season just out of pure impatience. There was a play when she went over the rim to get a rebound. She was unable to stay in bounds so South Carolina retained possession but there were a couple of reporters sitting near me on press row who haven't seen her play before and they looked at each other in disbelief and one of them said to the other "what an athlete." I think at times I can take for granted some of the things that Stewart does that just aren't normally seen in the women's college game.

Of all the numbers that jumped out at me was 7-7-7-7. Those were the field goals made by Stewart, Mosqueda-Lewis, Jefferson and Tuck. Looking at the main difference between the teams last night, Stewart had other starters who could impose their will on the game on offense to keep her from having to win the game by herself while too many times it felt like it was Tiffany Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch having to shoulder the offensive load with little help for much of the game. That's not going to work against UConn. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention Saniya Chong. She has drawn plenty of criticism for her defensive struggles and while she is not the female version of Gary Payton, when she was asked to guard the extremely dangerous Mitchell she held her own.

I also wanted to give credit to Dawn Staley. I've sat in post-game press conferences after UConn dismantled a highly-touted opponent only to hear the opposing coach respond to every question to "it wasn't them, it was us." There was none of that disrespectful, dismissive garbage coming from Staley. While she admitted that her team did not play as well as she would have liked, she gave the proper amount of credit to where it belonged - with the soon to be No. 1 team in the country. It reminded me very much of how Pat Summitt conducted herself in the wake of losses to UConn during the glory days of the UConn/Tennessee series.

Last but most certainly not least, I have to say that atmosphere was as electric as any UConn women's home game in the last few years. It started a couple of hours before the game and did not relent. It was driven by a large, raucous student section and all the UConn players I spoke to after the game raved about the environment.


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