By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — When Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was on the Gampel Pavilion floor holding her right elbow and screaming in pain on Nov. 11, no one was sure when the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team would get its junior All-American back.
When Morgan Tuck went to the UConn Health Center in Farmington for her arthroscopic surgery on Nov. 12, no one was sure what the doctors would find and when the Huskies would get their sophomore forward back.
Five weeks later, they’re back.
Mosqueda-Lewis and Tuck, who have missed the last eight games with injuries, are probable for No. 1 UConn’s game Tuesday night against second-ranked Duke in the Jimmy V Classic at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“It’s a big relief,” Mosqueda-Lewis said after practice Sunday. “It was like every time we turned around early in the season someone was out with a little injury. Then we’d get them back and the next person was out. Now that we have everyone back and able to practice, it feels like we have a whole team again and every weapon possible.”
Junior Kiah Stokes, who sat out UConn’s last game against UC Davis on Dec. 5 with a sprained left ankle, will also be ready for Tuesday night.
Mosqueda-Lewis suffered a nerve contusion in her right elbow while grabbing a rebound early in the second half against Stanford at Gampel Pavilion Nov. 11. Tuck had her surgery on her right knee the next day.
Both returned to practice in a limited role a week ago.
“You hate being out and Kaleena and I have been out for about a month,” Tuck said. “We were down to six, seven people and now for us to all be together … Doing what we did showed what our whole team is about and what we’re made of. We don’t depend on one or two people. We’re a team.
“But we’re ready to get out there and play a game. We missed eight games. We’re very excited. This is the most excited we’ve been for practice just because we haven’t been out there. And we’re definitely excited to play the game.”
How much they play Tuesday night against the Blue Devils remains to be seen and likely will be a game-time decision.
“It’s just a matter of how much they can play given the fact they haven’t played,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
“Kaleena’s been going through practice depending on how she feels. Some practices it’s been an hour, some practices it’s been 45 minutes, some practices it’s been and hour and 15 minutes. It depends day to day and we’ll see how she feels Tuesday and will determine how much she is going to play.
“Same with Morgan. We don’t want to throw them in right away when you haven’t done anything for four weeks or five weeks. I don’t know if you want to put them out there for two hours every day right off the bat. We’re trying to work them in to the best of their ability without compromising everything they’ve done.”
The week of practice leading up to the showdown has, as expected, had its ups and downs for the duo.
Tuck missed four games a season ago with a bone bruise in the right knee.
“I always wish that I could do better,” Tuck said. “I’ve had to work to get back in shape, that was the biggest thing I noticed. And getting back into the flow of things with the team was another thing.
“There hasn’t been any swelling so that’s a sign it’s doing better. It’s feeling good. It’s all good so far.”
Mosqueda-Lewis sat out only one game in her first two seasons.
“The elbow is feeling good, I’m making shots, and it’s good to be out there with the team again,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I think I’m doing fine. I’ve been practicing, I’ve been doing well, so I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t play.”
UConn (10-0) has been off for fall semester final exams since beating UC Davis 97-37 10 days ago. Duke (10-0) also had exams this past week and has not played since winning at Oklahoma 94-85 on Dec. 8.
Tuck and Mosqueda-Lewis are happy to be back. Their teammates are thrilled.
“It adds two more weapons,” UConn All-American Stefanie Dolson said. “It’s really good to see how they’re playing and the way they’ve come back. We’re at full strength right now and we look good out there.”