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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

UConn's Stewart said "message was sent"

It was an interesting afternoon at Gampel Pavilion to say the least.

Rarely a media availability session comes and goes without Breanna Stewart being in the middle of providing answers to the question from the enquiring minds without hesitation.

However, the quick give and take that normally results in her meetings with the media (including me) was not the way things took place today. As I would imagine you are aware of, Stewart as well as teammate Morgan Tuck received the early hooks in Saturday's win over Memphis and never returned to the game. The five minutes played by Stewart marked the fewest in her three seasons as a Husky.

I did not go to the Memphis game but did watch it on television before leaving to cover last night's Yale/Dartmouth men's hockey game. There was one time when I heard an assistant coach from UConn (I think it was associate head coach Chris Dailey) yell "run, Stewie" as she lagged well behind her teammates on a fast-break attempt. Stewart kicked it into high gear but it wasn't long until she was sitting on the bench.

Stewart chose her words carefully when the subject turned to the recent stretch of games when UConn was rolling past fellow American Athletic Conference teams with remarkable ease.

"It is hard, in conference play, we are not downplaying our competition and the fact that our (playing time) may be limited, we have to get work done while we are in and be aggressive. We might have taken a different route. I don't know how to word this but I think our message is not that we were looking at teams in a different light compared to other teams, however long we are out on the court we are going to go hard and show that we are the best team in the country for a reason."

Stewart was extremely energetic in today's practice. On more than one occasion she soared into the air with her enormous wing span to knock an offensive rebound to a teammate on the perimeter. She scored in the lane, rebounded, defended and looked every bit the part of the nation's best player.

Coming off back to back games when the Huskies looked sluggish in the early going against Cincinnati and Temple, Auriemma had a short leash when the Huskies traveled to play Memphis.
"The message was sent," Stewart said. "It didn't really feel like anything crazy, we got off to slow starts Morgan (Tuck, also benched for most of the Memphis game) and myself, we are to blame for that, we are leaders of the team and the way we go about our (business) at the start of the game, we are setting the tone for the rest of the game."

Now Stewart gets to face No. 1 South Carolina with the size and athleticism to make things challenging for her to score either in the lane or on the perimeter.

"We are going to go hard and show that we are the best team in the country for a reason," Stewart said. "It is huge for us to come out with energy because we are going to be battling for 40 minutes. It helps that we are going to be playing a home game in front of a sellout crowd, hopefully. We have to be prepared to take their punches, as long as we are always on the attack, they have
to defend us. We have to punch them first, attack them first to show that this is how the game is going to go."

Auriemma claims the move of benching Stewart and Tuck for most of the game and Kiah Stokes for the second half was not about sending a message or punishing his three veterans for their collective lack of energy but merely his way of letting them know that he felt they were underachieving.

Auriemma was told that Stewart said the message was received resulting in a classic response from Auriemma.
"I hope she doesn't put her message in a bottle and I get in three years from now floating in the Long Island sound in my house in Niantic, I hope it is more immediate than that," Auriemma said. "I am not into this message thing. I told them that, I explained it to them yesterday and today, I am not into messages. Look, it is not easy playing here and it is not easy for the wrong reasons. There is no Machiavellian things going on in our office where we are going 'hey, how can we come with up this diabolical plan to make these guys better.' The reason it is not easy to play here is that the bar is set
so high that I think it infects all of us.

"If you are waiting for (South Carolina) or you are waiting for Notre Dame or Stanford, Duke or UCLA or name any of the teams on our schedule that everybody thinks is going to be pretty good then you are less than who you are. I just talk to them and said you want to be great against some of the lesser teams come out in the opening 20 minutes get your triple-double and go 'OK, Gabby (Williams) your turn.' Don't come out and be less than you are. I am not punishing them. Punishing
them would be to make them play. I am not trying to send a message, I am not punishing them. I am saying 'look, if you are going to less than I think you are there is no point in playing.' Nobody in history of academics or athletics has ever gotten less out of their abilities than me from the time I was in 10th grade to today. I hate when I see it in other people and I am going to prevent it to the best of my ability."

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Anonymous Joe said...

Hmm, "message was sent."


The key question, was the message received?

8:29 AM 

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