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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

UConn tested early and often by Maryland

The script is a rather familiar one. A talented, nationally-ranked opponent hangs with UConn for a while but once the Huskies get up by eight or 10 points, that is all she wrote.

However, Maryland had a refreshing new plot twist in store for those who made their way to New York for the Maggie Dixon Classic.

The Huskies led by seven at the end of the first quarter and Maryland quickly ripped off the first seven points of the second quarter to tie the game up. Early in the third quarter UConn seemed to be in control when a Breanna Stewart basket gave the Huskies an eight-point lead/ Then Brionna Jones, who had a spectacular offensive game, scored in the lane, Kristen Confroy drained back to back 3-pointers and after a Morgan Tuck free throw, Brianna Fraser's three-point play capped the 11-1 run to give the Terrapins a 43-41 lead. UConn answered right back, headed into the fourth quarter up by nine points. The lead grew to 12 on a pair of occasions and yet again Maryland came charging back. A 3-pointer by Tierney Pfirman pulled the Terps within four with 68 seconds to play. It wasn't until Saniya Chong calmly buried a 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play that victory No. 47 in a row was assured.

"We have talked about nothing is going to be easy this season and we don't want it to be because we want to be able to reach our potential individually and as a team," said Stewart, who had eight of her 23 points in the fourth quarter. :When we play a team like Maryland, they kept fighting no matter what the score was, no matter how much they were down, how much they were up."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma certainly didn't like some of things his team did last night especially the nine turnovers in the first quarter and stretches of stagnant "wait for somebody else to make a play" offensive play but he had to love the fact that Maryland pushed his team in different ways than any other opponent this season.

"Sometimes we make it look real easy," Auriemma said. "We try to explain to our players that it is not easy and it is not going to be easy and a game like today reminds all of us that this is not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be hard when you play really good teams.

"Maryland is a good tough matchup for us because they are so big inside and we can't handle that unless we get some help and the minute we help, they've got guys who can make you pay for it and knocking in 3s. I think they are much more balanced than I think they were last year and they are a lot harder to match up with. We are still trying to figure out how we are going to go forward. In games like this you miss what Kiah Stokes would do defensively. Brionna Jones was 12 for 14 and I don't think that would happen if we had Kiah. We don't make enough 3s because we lost the greatest 3-point shooter (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis) and we haven't had anybody step up and fill that role yet so there are still some things that we have to figure out and a game like this helps us do that."

MOVING BY A LEGEND
In the process of leading UConn to the hard-earned victory Stewart moved into sixth place on UConn's career scoring list passing the iconic Diana Taurasi. She also moved into a tie for seventh place in rebounding with Kara Wolters.

When UConn plays Cincinnati on Wednesday night, Stewart needs only 13 points to pass Kerry Bascom, Nykeska Sales and Mosqueda-Lewis and move into third place on the Huskies' career scoring charts.

"That is a huge honor just to obviously be in the same sentence with them and I think it just goes to show that how hard I've worked since I have been here," Stewart said. "Points are nice but the wins are more important and I think you guys understand that."

Stewart has done plenty of winning as well. Since her arrival the Huskies are 123-5.

Morgan Tuck also reached a milestone when she joined UConn's 1,000-point club. It marks the first time in program history that every member of UConn recruiting class of at least three players all scored 1,000 career points.

UConn's Class of 2002 had four 1,000 point scorers (Sue Cash, Asjha Jones, Tamika Williams and Sue Bird). There's no telling whether Keirsten Walters would have gotten there as well if not for her troublesome knees. The class that Diana Taurasi came in with also had three 1,000-point scorers although Ashley Battle and Jessica Moore hit that milestone the year after Taurasi graduated.

2 Comments:

Blogger Gordon Hill said...

My take is that MD had little chance of winning the game. In his post game Geno made his intentions clear: Find a replacement for Kaleena and Kiah, both for rebounding, Kaleena for scoring and Kiah for shot blocking. My take on that is he needs a solid fifth starter and a sixth man coming off the bench from the four, soon to be five, top bench players. I expect to see the four vet starters to play their usual 25 to 35 mpg -- more in the big games (SoCar and 2XUSF) and less in the other sixteen until tournament time.

4:00 PM 
Anonymous Joe said...

I'm really looking forward to see what Natalie Butler brings to the table once she is fully integrated into the team. It is so rare for Geno to accept a transfer, she might really be something special!

8:43 PM 

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