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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, December 11, 2015

UConn's veterans deliver in Florida State win

In the world that the UConn women's basketball team resides in there are simply different definitions for what constitutes a nail-biting moment.

There was a time when Florida State was only down by eight or 10 points and I happened to glance over to the UConn bench and the Huskies' Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma had a worried look on his face.

Auriemma knew how good this Florida State team was and if somehow the Seminoles could be within about six points coming down the stretch, he was concerned what might transpire. His four returning starters made sure that never happened.

It was a 31-23 game with 4 minutes left in the second quarter when Breanna Stewart scored off an assist from Kia Nurse and then Moriah Jefferson hit a pair of baskets 30 seconds apart to give the Huskies some breathing room going into the locker room at halftime.

Florida State had crept back within 10 with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter when Stewart scored. What followed might have been the most important sequence in the game. Jefferson missed a jumper and Leticia Romero, the Florida State guard who Auriemma said "might be the best guard we have played against so far" was dribbling the ball up the court when Jefferson reached in from behind for the steal. Jefferson got the ball to Stewart who set up Nurse for a 3-pointer.

"We have played together for a while now," Jefferson said. "Kia Nurse coming in too so I think you have to be calm and poised. You have to be able to come out to make plays when you need to make plays."

Morgan Tuck led the way with 18 points, Stewart had 15 points, five rebounds, seven assists, five steals and six blocked shots, Jefferson had 15 points and Nurse finished with 14. Stewart passed Rebecca Lobo and Kara Wolters and is now seventh on UConn's career scoring list while Jefferson became the 11th Huskies with 500 assists. Milestones aside, this was not about the individual numbers as much as it was how the four returning starters impacted the game when it mattered most.

"Their decision making really sets them apart," said Florida State coach Sue Semrau, who coached both Stewart and Tuck during one of her USA Basketball stints. "I think Morgan is an unsung hero. She is somebody who in the short corner is just deadly and that is what I want Ivey Slaughter to do.

"She (Stewart) is one of the best players on the planet, what can't she do/  I think she is a special player."

Now the Huskies get some time off with the next game not until Dec. 21 against LSU. The hope is that Saniya Chong and Natalie Butler will be back for that game while Katie Lou Samuelson should be closer to full strength by then. If freshman De;Janae Boykin is ready to make her UConn debut by then remains to be seen.

"It has been hard," Auriemma said. "She hasn't been healthy. She had the wrist issue and then she had the Achilles issue so that is one problems and the other problem is that there are some academic issues we are trying to work through so it is like she hasn't been there. It is a little different that Natalie because at least Natalie had a chance to practice all of last year so it has been a struggle, it really has been a struggle for her and hopefully this week she takes care of what we needs to take care of (during finals) and we will go from there "



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