Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis sets three-point record when team needed them most
ALBANY, NEW YORK: It meant more because they mattered more.
Everyone on planet earth knew that UConn senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was going to break the all-time three point record at some point.
After all, she had but five to go and with a potential to play in three more games, including her semi-final game against Dayton on Monday night in the finals of the Albany Regional, it was sure to come.
Two or three per game and boom, she’s got the mark.
Well, what happened on a cool spring night in Albany was that the other team in the final, Dayton, came to play as no team had come to play the Huskies this season to date.
The Flyers went toe-to-toe with the mighty Huskies and even led at the half (the first time UConn had trailed at the half since the Nixon administration) by a 44-43 score.
I joke with the length of time, but it had been since the midway point of the 2012-2013 campaign since the digits on the big board did not lean in the Huskies favor after the first 20 minutes.
UConn needed the seven (of 10) three-pointers that KML made in the worse way and she came through with them at the most important time for her team, who used a blitzing second half to get to Tampa next weekend after putting away the pesky Flyers by a 91-70 final.
Those seven made trey’s give Mosqueda-Lewis 394 and the top spot in women’s college basketball history.
She passes Laurie Koehn of Kansas State and Heather Butler of UT-Martin who both landed at the 392 mark.
Getting the record when her team needed it most was not something lost on the coach who has seen all 394 long balls drop over the last four years.
How happy was he for his senior forward? Really happy that they came when they mattered.
“You know, we were playing at University of Pacific and it was the opening game for us this year,” head coach Geno Auriemma said, “and she made ten threes. Somebody on the bench said, you know she just tied Maya Moore’s record for most threes in one game, you want to leave her out there. So, I went over to K and said, K, do you really want to break somebody's record in a game we’re up 50? So she said, ‘no I don’t want to do that.' I said, why don’t we save it for another day?”
“Getting records, if you are lucky, is part of you being really good, part of being great, allows you to set records. But when you set them and you make them when the team needs them the most. So down the road when someone asks K, yeah you broke the record, it won’t be in a 120-40 game. No, it was in a game when we needed all seven of those. To me that is more indicative of who she is now. I don’t know if she could have done that when she was a freshman. K wouldn’t have been out there looking to knock those in when she was a freshman, she would have been looking for someone else to do it. That’s how far she has come, she wanted the ball every time down the floor.”
To get a sense of why they mattered so much, track when she hit her threes.
In the first eight minutes of an offensively brilliant half for both teams, the back and forth was in full force. KML hit her first trey to knot things at 22 and her next to give her team the lead at 25-22.
Dayton continued to light things up (shooting 70 percent from beyond the arc in the opening half) and answered with a pair of threes themselves, sandwiched around her third three of the evening.
A 6-0 run to end the half put the Flyers up 44-43.
The Huskies, who to a player say they welcomed this challenge, came out on fire on both ends and when KML nailed a three with 16:15 left in the game, the record was tied and more importantly, the lead was up to eight at 52-44.
With 12:32 to go in the game, KML hit a long three from the top of the key to stretch the lead to 62-49 and while the Flyers made one more run, the Huskies took off from their and as a result, will be taking off for Tampa.
You had to figure the Flyers came into this game with part of their game plan being able to contain Mosqueda-Lewis, if that is possible but doing so on the chalkboard doesn’t always translate on the basketball court.
“She’s such a great shooter,” Dayton head coach Jim Jabir said. “She’s so quick and you know what, that’s the obvious answer but she’s so smart. Like the way they use screens to get open and the angles they find. I mean, we look like ping pong balls sometimes trying to defend some of their guys. For as big as she is, she’s really athletic and nimble and quick and she got open. They are so intelligent and she actually a pretty good athlete who can just stroke it and it’s so nice and quick and she’s a tough guard. We made that a priority but it was a lot easier to talk about then it was to execute.”
Her head coach has been through it all with the shooter with the near perfect shot and respects what she has done and how she will be rewarded for it in the future.
“She deserves everything that’s coming her way. She’s become a really good basketball player.”
Thanks to her coming through with the record when her team needed it the most, her team needs but two wins to bring home their 10th national championship.
NOTES: Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart were named to the Wooden All-American team on Monday night.
Stewart was named Most Outstanding Player in the Albany Regional.
The 44 points first quarter points were the most allowed by the Huskies this year.
Morgan Tuck added 23 points and Moriah Jefferson 10 as four players scored 83 of the Huskies' 91 points.
After shooting 51.4 percent in the first half, the UConn defense clamped down and the Flyers shot just 37 percent in the second.
Stewart had a double-double with her 23 points and 16 rebounds. UConn won the battle of the boards by a 41-31 margin.