Rout of DePaul shows some things change but much remains the same for UConn women
BRIDGEPORT - Some things have definitely changed this season for the UConn women's basketball team but an easy win over DePaul on Friday night showed a lot of important things have stayed the same.
Breanna Stewart tied her season high with 25 points and five different Huskies scored in double figures in a 98-64 thumping of DePaul on Friday night at Webster Bank Arena.
UConn (7-1) had been off since its convincing 76-58 win at Notre Dame on Dec.6. The Huskies took the first five minutes or so to knock the rust off and then the rest of the first half to knock the Blue Demons out.
At the heart of things was Stewart, who scored 21 of her points in the first half in an offensive display that showcased all of her talents. She hit three 3-pointers, posted up and did just about everything in between.
Stewart has been good but not quite her dominant self in the early going of the season. On Friday she started to look and feel like her old self and that meant trouble for the Blue Demons.
"I could feel the difference and I could tell I was more in tune with everything that was going on," Stewart said. "It had been a weird feeling so far, it wasn't the same as last year. I wasn't doing as much as I could have and now I feel like I'm getting back to how I want to play, like I did tonight."
Having as much time off as the Huskies did was good for finishing up the semester in the classroom, but not quite as beneficial for a basketball team. Even UConn coach Geno Auriemma said it was "too much practice" but it did give Stewart time to find herself.
"She was moving more, more assertive and not looking to pass as much and she was attacking what the defense gave her," Auriemma said. "The last six or seven days in practice she's been a different player. Like what you saw tonight, she has just wanted to be involved on every possession."
With Stewart asserting herself UConn again has the best player in the country. She just presents too many matchup problems with her ability to shoot the three, post up if you go small against her or hit anything in between.
"Stewie is a special player," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "She's one of the best in the country and she's just an impossible matchup. Don't forget, she's just starting her junior year, she's going to get better."
That has to be a scary thought for the rest of the country because Stewart is hardly a one-player show. As Bruno put it, UConn still has "five to seven pros they can throw out there," despite losses like Stephanie Dolson and Bria Hartley.
Bruno also touched on another thing that remains the same as it has been for the last few seasons, if you want to get to the top of women's college basketball, the road there goes through Connecticut.
"Geno might not like me saying this but I'm just trying to be truthful, that is the best team in the country and if you want to start talking about the national championship, the road goes through UConn," Bruno said.
Auriemma took Bruno's praise in stride, "he always says that," he quipped. But Auriemma was serious when he said that with this group of players he won't start looking that far down the road.
Eight players got in the game for the Huskies on Friday night with just two of them seniors and two of them were freshmen, including starting guard Kia Nurse, who scored 19 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists.
"With some groups I've had we might look that far ahead but with this team I think they are better focusing on what's in front of them, March is a long ways off," Auriemma said. "We still have a lot of things to get better at."
And with that Auriemma hit on something that never seems to change around this program. Regardless of how many wins they have or how good they look, Auriemma and the Huskies are never satisfied.