UConn women show their depth
UConn women show their depth
STORRS – A bad week for most teams. Your best shooter and one of a handful of All-Americans is out indefinitely with a bruised nerve in her elbow after an awkward fall punctuated with painful screams that hushed the packed house.
Then somewhat out of the blue one of your key contributors off of the bench follows up a solid performance by undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that will sideline her for 4-6 weeks.
Ouch, that will trim the corners off of any smile. It was announced Wednesday that UConn will be without Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis (elbow) and Morgan Tuck (knee) for the foreseeable future. So what does that do the No. 1 ranked Huskies?
Maybe nothing in terms of wins and losses. Nobody is suggesting that these are not key injuries for the Huskies who travel to No. 8 Maryland Friday and No. 13 Penn State Sunday. So much for cupcakes.
But, hardly disaster here. You have to figure out the Terrapins and Penn. State had the old big screen tuned in Monday night during the Huskies 76-57 dispatching of then No. 3 Stanford at Gampel Pavilion. Those No. 2 Blue Devils from Duke and a whole lot of other interested opponents and fans set aside this game for viewing too I’m sure.
And you have to figure that deep down maybe they got that nauseating feeling in the gut. UConn hasn’t exactly snuck up on anybody in more than two decades when that first Kerry Bascom team went to the Final Four.
The eight-time national champions just keep coming at you. But on a night when the Huskies lose KML less than two minutes into the second half, future All-American Breanna Stewart picks up two fouls before Doris Burke finishes putting her makeup on and Stephanie Dolsen is in the process clanging the rim (2-for-9) you figure there is some vulnerability here.
Didn’t happen. It couldn’t have made dinner go down too easy for those opponents viewing the proceedings.
Here comes precocious freshman Saniya Chong off of the bench to drill a pair of huge threes in the first half just when the Huskies were in the midst of a major bricklayer’s convention.
Morgan Tuck would come through with an 11-point, four rebound effort. Both Chong and Tuck’s performance sandwiched a career effort from Kiah Stokes who scored 10 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked six shots.
All enough for coach Geno Auriemma to call it, “the best game (Kiah) has ever played since she has been at Connecticut.” “She was really, really unbelievably good in just about every area.’
For Stokes it was another step in building some confidence.
“All around I pride myself in going harder than I have in the past, “said the 6-foot-3 junior. “There’s up and downs that still get in my head sometimes. That’s a process of me getting out and being more confident in myself. Tonight I missed a layup and could have gone downhill again but I really tried to focus on staying positive and being more focused.
It gives me confidence knowing I can come out and do it. In the past couple of years I’ve kind of had my ups and downs. It has been I don’t know if I can or can’t.”
The Huskies got a throw-back effort from senior guard Bria Hartley who scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists. A welcome sight after a junior year in which a balky ankle hampered her play. Hartley was not surprised at the effort from the bench.
“I’ve always thought we had bench players,” said Hartley. “We come here with a bunch of McDonald’s All-American, high school All-Americans so we have people that can come in, people with talent. This year is one of the most experienced team we’ve had.”
Can UConn be had? Absolutely. Nobody should take the second game of the season and turn it into a national championship. It is a rough weekend coming up. You don’t want to test fate if KML is gone for a while. The loss of Tuck stings.
But that is an uneasy feeling that came out of Gampel Monday night if you are on the Huskies list. This night was not a night about Stewart or Dolson or KML. It was about Tuck and Chong and especially Stokes.
And it was about Bria Hartley.
It is a long season. UConn was No. 1 long before Stanford came along. There are no surprises with the Huskies. Still, knowing all that, dinner might not have tasted as good for those future opponents watching.