By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — It’s a shot that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has already taken many times since she joined the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team and figures to take many times more before she’s through.
And she was there in that Gampel Pavilion corner in front of the Huskies’ bench again Monday taking passes from teammate Bria Hartley and repeating it over and over. This time, though, there weren’t 10,000 fans and a national television audience watching. Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd wasn’t running out to her trying to get a hand in her face. A crucial Big East result wasn’t on the line.
It was as quiet as Gampel Pavilion became Saturday after Mosqueda-Lewis’ try hit the rim and bounced away and the Irish escaped with a 73-72 victory.
“I’ve thought about it a lot since it happened and I’ll probably still think about it until the end of the season,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I’ll probably think about it for a long time. But I’m a shooter. You’re not going to make them all and I wanted to make that one. But, unfortunately, it didn’t fall for me. I’m going to keep practicing my shot.
“I went out there and shot that same shot for a long time (Monday) and I made a majority of them. It just sucks that if I get the next chance I probably knock that shot in. I almost made every one. Basically, I know I can make that shot. Nine out of 10 times I’m going to make that shot.”
Mosqueda-Lewis could get her next chance Wednesday night when the third-ranked Huskies travel to the nation’s capital to take on Georgetown in Big East action at McDonough Arena (7:30 p.m., SNY).
The sophomore forward leads UConn (12-1 overall, 0-1 Big East) in scoring at 16.9 points per game and his second in the country to Penn State junior Maggie Lucas in 3-point shooting at 52.2 percent. She had 17 points and eight rebounds against Notre Dame, but there were two tries from behind the arc she would like another shot at.
With 1:03 left and the Huskies leading by one, Mosqueda-Lewis got a great look from the left wing but hit the back rim. Notre Dame took over and All-American Skylar Diggins was fouled on the next possession and her two free throws with 49.4 seconds left put the Irish in front. Then there was the final try.
“I didn’t know exactly how it was going to come off (my hand), but I knew it wasn’t going in,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “When it left my hand I was like, ‘Dang, that wasn’t the way I wanted it come off.’ I don’t know if I was too open or if I just rushed it. I don’t know what it was. All I know is that it didn’t go in.”
Which is why after coach Geno Auriemma called off Monday’s practice and following a weight-training session, Mosqueda-Lewis took some 200 shots from the right corner and left wing.
“The way I missed it is just the …,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “It’s the same way Coach always tells me when we’re shooting in drills, ‘Kaleena, you can’t ever be short.’ And in drills you think it doesn’t matter. But in that game maybe if I would’ve shot the ball long it would’ve been an easier rebound for my teammates to get and they would’ve put it back up.
“You can’t look back. You have to learn from what happened before. Right now we have to focus on ourselves, focus on getting better and getting back on out feet so the same things don’t happen again.”
Not only was Saturday tough emotionally on Mosqueda-Lewis, it was tough physically.
She took hits to her elbow and shin and also rolled an ankle. She tied and retied her right sneaker several times trying to get the pain in her ankle to subside.
“I don’t know how many times I tied it. But I didn’t know how many times I could have someone sit on my ankle or roll my ankle,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I wanted to help my team as much as possible. I didn’t want to come out unless I wasn’t able to walk or I was about to die.”
To Auriemma, that attitude shows how much she’s grown up over the past year.
Mosqueda-Lewis played 26 minutes Saturday. She sat out the final 10 of the first half with two fouls as Auriemma didn’t want to risk, with the way the game was being called by the officials, her picking up her third before halftime. The other four minutes she sat was after picking up her fourth foul with 10:00 remaining.
“Last year at this time we would have had to fly her to Walter Reed (Army Medical Center in Washington) because when you’re young every little thing is a big thing,” Auriemma said. “The other day she pretty much said ‘There’s no way I’m coming out of the game.’ And that happened at Oregon as well. She got hit in the face and I took her out and she said, ‘Why are you taking me out?’
“Here’s a kid that in the past would let things linger and now it’s ‘I’m not coming out.’ So I told her, ‘If you don’t foul, you’re never coming out of the game. Let that be a lesson to you.’ “
Mosqueda-Lewis missed the first game of her career on Nov. 28 against Colgate after suffering a concussion against Purdue four days earlier in the championship game of the Paradise Jam. She sat out the second half of the Huskies’ game with Maryland Dec. 3 with a left quad contusion.
Then there was Saturday.
“I’ve never been hurt this much in my basketball career,” Mosqueda-Lewis said with a smile. “I can look at is as this means I’m not going to get hurt anymore since I have them out of the way or I have to work through it. This is not a time to be hurt. People say, ‘Well, you have time now. It’s only January and you want to be good in March.’ I need to be good now so I can be good in March.”
The Huskies practiced at home Tuesday before heading to Washington, D.C. They have won 27 straight games against Georgetown since a 64-62 loss at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 27, 1993, the last season UConn lost back-to-back games.
The Hoyas (10-4, 1-0) are coming off a 79-64 win over Providence that saw senior Sugar Rodgers record the program’s first triple-double. The Big East’s leading scorer (26.1) had 33 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists, and six steals against the Friars.
UConn could be at full strength for the first time in a month as sophomore reserve center Kiah Stokes is expected to be available after missing five games with a right shin stress reaction.
“We need to come out knowing we’re all ready and on the same page,” Mosqueda-Lewis said, “and that we’re all moving forward from the Notre Dame game and not looking back.”