UConn women back to normal, cruise past Creighton
STORRS – Okay, get off of the ledge, cancel the bridge jump. Normalcy returned to the UConn women’s basketball world Sunday afternoon.
Six days after Stanford reminded the country and UConn nation in particular that this season is not last season and nothing is ordained by ending the defending national champion’s 47-game win streak in overtime, the Huskies were back, most of them, and looked very UConn-like.
Creighton bore the brunt of the back-in-form Huskies to the tune of a 96-60 Husky victory in front of 7,123 at Gampel Pavilion.
The victory came without Kaleena Mosqueda- Lewis who after struggling at practice during the week, came in for a shoot-around in the morning and was finally sent home with flu-like symptoms. UConn was also without freshman Courtney Ekmark who is out 4-6 weeks with a stress reaction in her right foot.
On this day, the Huskies were fine without their best shooter and freshman. Their best player, National Player of the Year Breanna Stewart buoyed by the active presence of Morgan Tuck (14 points, seven rebounds) led all scorers with 25 points on a perfect 10-of-10 shooting to go with 10 boards.
Highly touted freshmen Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams also got into the act. Nurse fired in 22 points on 6-of-7 shooting while Williams came on to score 11 points, nine in the second half. Moriah Jefferson chipped in with 10 points.
“We’re three game into the season, yeah, we lost to Stanford but it just showed we need to get better at things so we’re getting better at things right now and taking it game by game, “ said Stewart. “We have a goal of where we want to be in March. We Wanted to get back to Connecticut basketball. We were having fun out there.’
Assuredly more fun than the Bluejays. Stewart got the show going by draining a 3-pointer in the first seconds of the game and the Huskies proceeded to rip off nine straight points.
Stewart hit all six of her shots in the first half enjoying some open air with Tuck occupying the Creighton defense. Tuck, who played just eight games a year ago due to reconstructive surgery on her knee, was a force underneath with 14 points.
“It’s just great to see Morgan back,” said Stewart. “It helps a lot like when we went big lineup tonight it gives me an opportunity to have mismatches and she is someone who can knock down outside shots and at the same time post up. Just another person with versatility.”
Nurse wasted little time getting into the act with 12 first half points, including a couple of three-pointers. It was rejuvenation for the first-year player who fouled out against Stanford.
“Foul-wise, I’ve played in a lot of games internationally and whatnot and I think I should have adjusted to the refs faster than I did or I probably didn’t make an adjustment at all,” said Nurse of game at Stanford. “Offensively I just think I didn’t look to shoot the ball. I didn’t look to be as aggressive as I usually am and I think that obviously caused trouble for myself and allowed Stanford to take people off me and double Stewie.”
Nurse rectified the situation this time around and did it on both ends of the floor. Given the job of guarding the Big East Player of the Year Marissa Janning, she made the Big East Player of the Year work and struggle for anything she got.
Janning finished the night with 15 points on 6-of-21 shooting.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge, Big East Player of the Year is a big accolade for her,” said Nurse. “I took it as a challenge and did the best job I could. Defensively we did a better job as a team definitely it was a point of emphasis after (the Stanford game). Be more active talk to each other out there. We did a better job of it.”
For the game UConn held Creighton to just 35 percent shooting on a 21-60 effort from the floor. The Blue Jays actually made more 3-pointers (13-for-30) than they did two-point field goals.
By halftime, the Huskies had rolled up a 49-28 lead and the second half was early-season fine-tuning. Williams had a nice run of eight-point run in a three-minute period to highlight the action.
Coach Geno Auriemma was in November mode. Not overly piqued at the loss to Stanford, nor was he a picture of euphoria four days before Thanksgiving.
Did his team take the steps needed after the loss to Stanford. Some. However, there was caution in the bowels of Gampel.
“It is a long road, a really long road,” said Auriemma. “(This group) is not ready to jump right in and say I got this.’
Well, they had it Sunday and now have gone 775 games without losing twice in a row. The road has started