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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

UConn role players stepped out of comfort zone in 2nd round win

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson combined for 42 points
as UConn pulled away for 91-55 victory over Rutgers on Monday night
Often times it looks all so routine.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis starts hitting 3-pointers from seemingly everywhere, Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart take turns setting up the other for layups while Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse attack the basket with controlled abandon.

However, Stewart was on the bench with two fouls, neither Mosqueda-Lewis nor Nurse were involved in the offense as the Huskies found themselves with few answers and a precarious five-point lead as the NCAA second-round game approached the midway point of the first half.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer is a Hall of Famer in large part due to being one of the top defensive minds in the history of women's college basketball and she was not about to make things easy for the Huskies.

For one of the few times this season, the Huskies seemed to be a bit rattled. Ill advised passes resulted in turnovers, poor shot selection contributed to some empty possessions. There wasn't much help coming from the bench either so for stretches it basically was Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck playing 2 on 5 on the offensive end of the court.

What followed next was seeing players contribute in different ways.

It started with freshman Gabby Williams, a 44 percent free-throw shooter, going 3 of 4 from the foul line. Then Mosqueda-Lewis, who had fallen into her old habit of standing in one spot waiting to fire up a 3-pointer, began to move with purpose. She hit a jumper in the lane, added a rebound, assist and steal before capping an 11-0 run with a 3-pointer. Kiah Stokes ripped down offensive rebounds with authority and before long, the Huskies were well on their way to another convincing win.

"You never know when somebody is going to go down, either get hurt or get into foul trouble so you have to be ready to step up at any time," said UConn junior guard Moriah Jefferson, who had 19 points including the 1,000th of her career. "We needed (somebody) whether it was me or K (Mosqueda-Lewis) to step up and make the shots to get us into a rhythm and onto a
roll.
"I think games like this are really fun. When Stewie went out, I think a lot of people stepped up and that isn't even saying anything about Gabby, she was killing it. I am just excited for my team."
Williams had 11 points and 10 rebounds as she became the ninth UConn freshman to score in double figures in both the first and second round games. Stokes contributed more to the winning effort than her final line of four points, eight rebounds and two blocks would seem to indicate. Saniya Chong's stat line of two points, four rebounds and one turnover is not an indication of the impact she had. There was one flurry when Chong made the perfect defensive read to prevent a transition layup by Rutgers. Then UConn came down the court and Chong alertly vacated the area near Mosqueda-Lewis leading to one of her five 3-pointers.

"You have to be ready when you name is called," Stokes said. "You don't know when people are going to get into foul trouble like Stewie did. It is not a thing of hang your head because you're not starting or you are not the first one off the bench. When your name is called you have to be ready. I have taken that to heart. I have come in during certain games throughout my whole career and given the spark we needed. I know when my name is called I need to come in, block shots and
get rebounds. As long as I am doing that, I know I am doing my role."

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