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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stewart, Jefferson shine in another UConn blowout win

There's plenty of ways to display leadership. UConn seniors Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart are more of the "lead by example" types and that is exactly what they did in Saturday's win over Memphis.

Although the Huskies were rolling along with a 14-point lead early in the second quarter, there was a sense among the players and coaches that the Huskies were somewhat lethargic.

One of the first signs of life came in one stretch when Stewart and Jefferson came up with offensive rebounds that were more about a relentless effort to extend a possession than their natural athleticism.

Saniya Chong had just missed a jumper when Stewart used her 7-foot-1 wing span to secure an offensive rebound that few other women's college players could have corralled. Stewart would miss a jumper of her own. A pair of Memphis players seemed to be in perfect position to snare the rebound only to have Jefferson aggressively chase the ball down. Given a third opportunity, Stewart drained a jumper off Napheesa Collier's assist. The crowd, which had been waiting for something to cheer about, unleashed a rousing ovation for the blue-collar work from the Huskies' star players.

"We made a few hustle plays in a row and got into the crowd into it," Stewart said. "When you have the crowd, that is a huge momentum swing for us."

Jefferson was thrilled to have a role in the signature sequence of events in the victory.

"Those are the types of plays that we have to make and we can make memories on," Jefferson said. "You can have energy and the team builds off of that. If you aren't going for offensive rebounds, if we are in a tight game and need them, we aren't going to be able to do it.

"Those types of plays definitely bring energy to the arena, the fans love it and we love it as a team."

Jefferson admitted that she was not a happy camper at halftime and let her teammates know it.

"I usually don't do too much yelling but I did a little bit at halftime just saying that our energy wasn't there," Jefferson said. "It wasn't so much the things we were doing, we were getting stops and making plays but it wasn't enough. We were definitely low energy and we can't ever have that in any game that we play."

Stewart finished with 19 points as she tied Tina Charles for second place on UConn's career list with the 117th double-digit career scoring game. She also moved within 15 points of tying Charles for the No. 2 spot on UConn's career scoring chart. Stewart added seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. Jefferson had 11 points and seven assists. She also became the ninth UConn player with three seasons of at least 100 assists and 50 steals and tied Bria Hartley for fifth place in career assists in the process.

Morgan Tuck, who returned to practice on Friday, missed her fourth straight game as she rested her surgically-repaired right knee.

"It is always going to be her (decision not to play) from here on in," Auriemma said. "If she knows she is good to go, she'll go. If she goes 'I am not ready' I trust her.

"She (felt) pretty good but not where she wants to be and I respect that. We will see Monday at practice, we have Monday, Tuesday and shootaorund on Wednesday so we potentially have three more looks at it (before UConn plays at Tulane on Wednesday) so if she goes all three days then we will figure it out. I would like to get her back, obviously."

Warde Manuel, who was officially introduced as Michigan's director of athletics, was in attendance and met with the media at halftime to discuss his decision to head back to his alma mater.

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