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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, March 02, 2015

UConn's Stewart ready for March Madness

Just in case anybody might have missed the calendar flipping from February to March, I give you these numbers - 29, 11 and 7. That is 29 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots which happens to be the line for Breanna Stewart in the regular-season finale against South Florida.

Stewart brings it on a nightly basis, you don't get to be the national player of the year by only showing up in the big games but there is something about playing games in March and April that really gets Stewart's game to reach higher levels.

Stewart now has scored at least 20 points nine times in 22 career collegiate games played either in March or April.

"This is where you want to play your best and each game we play I want to play better," Stewart said.

Stewart is in the midst of one of the best offensive runs in her three seasons as a Husky. Over the last five games she has scored 119 points which trails only the 123 scored in a five-game stretch highlighted by a career-high 37-point effort against Temple during her sophomore season. What's interesting about this current run of big games is that it is coming while she is struggling to find the range for 3-point range. This was the seventh time in the last eight games that Stewart failed to make a 3-pointer.

"I am trying to be really aggressive," Stewart said.."If I have an open 3, I am going to take it because I know I can make those shots. Maybe they aren't going in right now but it is not like I am going to shy away from (taking them)."

Her coach is just fine with the number of Stewart's 3-point attempts dwindling because that means she is spending more time in the lane where she is simply unguardable.

"That 3-point line is the worst thing ever invented for big guys," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Back in the day when they would grow up they would want to attack the basket, get to the free throw line and show everybody how tough they are. Then the 3-point line came along and it was like 'now I can be like the guards, just park my (butt) out here and fire up 3s and not have to work at it.' That is not the winning edge, that is not how you win championships. I'll bet you if we needed five 3s from Stewie to win a game, she would make them but she is at a (stage) in her career that first things first. When she is taking care of all the things inside the lane, all the mid range stuff ... She was unbelievable tonight and they were pretty physical with her too."

Auriemma wasn't done talking about his best player

"Stewie is the best player in the country and there are a lot of really great players in the country," Auriemma said. "There are 365 Division I (women's basketball) coaches. If you put a gun to their head and said you can only have one players who would you take? Anybody who took anybody other that Stewie, they should just pull the trigger - hopefully it will be a blank.

"Stewie, I don't think goes out every night trying to get everybody to say 'wow she is the best player in the country. she doesn't do that, . She likes to play basketball she loves the game and she loves the big games. The bigger the game, the better she plays. When the time is right and March comes around, Stewie is at her best. This is a real challenge for Stewie because this is the first time since (her senior year of high school) that Stewie has been the oldest player on her team. Always that great player but had older players around her to carry her if things didn't do well. This year is the first time she has been that person that everybody looks up to. It is not easy to be in that situation at Connecticut."

UConn and South Florida had already secured the top two seeds in the upcoming American Athletic Conference tournament before they squared off. However, some of the other seeds weren't going to be finalized until the end of Monday's games.

Tulsa ended up being seeded third followed by Temple and East Carolina claimed the No. 5 seed and final first-round bye. The tournament begins on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena with three games as No. 6 Tulane meets No. 11 Houston, No. 7 Memphis plays No. 10 SMU (the teams met on Monday with SMU picking up the win) while No. 8 Central Florida and No. 9 Cincinnati play with the winner getting the reward of drawing UConn in the quarterfinals.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim Fuller -

I thought WCBB wanted freedom of movement? Or is that just for guards outside the 3 point arc?

Stewart and Tuck both got away with arm bars and elbows - as they should have. Because the USF posts were mugging them.

It was clear that USF wanted UConn players to react and get called for fouls. And it worked to some degree. But why do some refs allow that?

F stands for Flopping in USF. That was a Ridiculous display of Flopping on Defense. Stewart could have gotten seriously hurt with them Flopping under her legs. It happened more than twice so this was no coincidence.

UConn coaches could not have been happy with what the refs allowed last night. Sure, it showed that Stewart was tough. But she could have been seriously injured landing on someone under her legs.

For what it is worth, I do not want to see "Louisville mugging Griner 2.0" in this March Madness. Win games fairly by the rules the opponent plays by.

Refs should Not change the rules when March Madness roles around. I get that ESPN wants ratings and the media wants to write novels about huge upsets in WCBB.

Play by the rules from the start of each game. Or leave the whistles at home and let someone get seriously injured or a brawl start. Is that what the NCAA wants to promote WCBB?

Very few teams are allowed by refs to mug more talented teams. Louisville and USF are two of the worst offenders. Should they not play by the same rules as everyone else?

I hope that Stewart, Tuck, and the rest of UConn players can somehow manage their emotions the next time refs allow them to be mauled.

6:49 AM 
Blogger Jim Fuller said...

That is how South Florida played defense in the game at UConn as well. They came down, smacked whoever was in the low post and then the pass was in the air flopped to the floor. There will be more of that moving forward unfortunately because that is the only way most teams can match up with UConn.

Unfortunately, officiating points of emphasis usually only get called for about the first month. A lot of the freedom of movement stuff called when UConn and Stanford player no longer results in fouls.

6:36 PM 

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