Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Big 3 deliver again for UConn

In the buildup for the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown, UConn coach Geno Auriemma couldn't put a number of how many questions he was asked about the rise of the South Carolina program and importance of the game. However, one inquiry stands above all the others and that came earlier in the day when he was asked if the game was a litmus test one for his team.

He thought about how many big games the trio of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck have played since their arrival including three national championship games (two for Tuck) and could only chuckle.

Auriemma wasn't sure what else would happen but he rather certain that the aforementioned trio would be good to go. All they did was combine to score UConn's first 28 points, Stewart had a double-double while Jefferson and Tuck combined to hold Tiffany Mitchell and Alaina Coates to a 5 of 18 shooting performance.

"I appreciate them more every day because sometimes I start to blink and I realize they aren't going to be out there and I really appreciate them," Auriemma said. "Some of the plays they made are unbelievable. Some of the shots Stewie makes, the way Moriah gets in the lane, just how tough  Tuck is on one leg. I just can't say enough about those guys, they are pretty special guys."

Nobody is more appreciative of what Jefferson and Tuck have done at UConn than Stewart.

"A lot of people overlook what Morgan and Moriah have done and it is just as much of an impact that they have made and we would't be in this position without those two," Stewart said. "I just appreciate playing with them and tying to enjoy this last year as much as possible."

UConn improved to 19-3 in No. 1 vs. No. 2 games including a 6-0 mark since the arrival of Stewart, Jefferson and Tuck.

"I am not surprised about what happened tonight, I knew we were playing a great team, we knew we were playing a team that is almost unbeatable on their home court and they are probably going to go back to the Final Four like they did last year because they are good," Auriemma said. "When my guys know that the challenge is huge, those three seniors usually come up huge. The fun part is really the look in their eyes when they are getting ready to play in a game like this is really quite different than any other time.

"When it is the biggest moment, you can tell the way we practice the day before, the way shootaround goes, the way they look when we are watching film, when we are talking to them in the huddle, there is a whole different vibe. It makes me different, it makes me feel like back in the old days and the (assistant) coaches too. There was a little bit of stuff flowing through all of us and when two teams like this play, you are actually more nervous at home than you are on the road. I am really proud of our team tonight."

A couple of numbers jumped out at me.

First, South Carolina came into the game leading the country averaging 24.1 attempted free throws per game however the Gamecocks had seven attempts through three quarters.

Also, the rebound totals were dead even 35-35 with UConn actually getting more offensive rebounds and the Huskies also had more blocked shots that the Gamecocks.

The biggest numbers might have been 40, 40, 39 and 33 and those are the minutes played by returning starters Stewart, Jefferson, Kia Nurse and Tuck.

Auriemma said after the game that of the younger players, Gabby Williams was the one who contributed the most. He said he could have played Saniya Chong but each time he looked at who he would have to take out and opted to play it safe.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wilson missing half the gams would be equivalent to Stewart missing half the game. It would have been much closer than the 19 point spread when Wilson finally returned.

8:15 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This might be Geno and CD last great team. No player on this present team could replace the senior level talent and experience of Stewart or Jefferson or Tuck. None of the 3 incoming freshmen could to that. No player in WCBB can. They are special people with amazing talent.
UConn will return back into the pack, much like it did for 3 seasons in between Taurasi and Maya. Top 10 team with several losses. Will be interesting to see if Geno and CD have the magic to land one more great recruiting class for 2017-18. Identifying the right pieces for their program has been their greatest gift.
Hoping for a 4th straight national championship and 75 game win streak heading into next season. No matter what is in store for UConn's future teams, it has been an amazing 25 year ride. Especially since the 2007-8 season, with at least 5 national championships, 90 game win streak, 60+ game win strea.

8:24 AM 
Anonymous JR said...

"It would have been much closer than the 19 point spread when Wilson finally returned."

SC outscored UConn 10-5 the last 4-1/2 minutes of the first half after Wilson left the game. She didn't miss half the game either. She was out 14 minutes.

4:38 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, when Wilson went out the score was 30-15. It's not like she was making this big difference to that point. SC actually played better with Imbrobvio as her replacement.
Hey, no knock on Wilson. She's great. Just doubting that her missing part of the game was all that impactful.

8:10 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay. Since someone decided to play internet police. Let me point out that this person failed math in school. Wilson played 23 minutes meaning she missed 17, not 14 minutes. Check the box score.

Does not matter what the score was when Wilson left with an injury. She was out of the game. Period. No way UConn wins with Stewart or Jefferson out 17 minutes. How do I know? Because Auriemma was too afraid to give them even an 1 minute rest just before the end of quarters 1, 2, 3.

UConn starters were outscored 21-12 in the 4th quarter. I am sure Auriemma told the UConn starters to get outscored by 9 points. :-)

8:04 AM 

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