Notebook: Huskies expect Stewart back

By Carl Adamec

HARTFORD, Conn. — Breanna Stewart came out for pregame warmups with her University of Connecticut women’s basketball teammates Tuesday night and looked ready to go.

But at game time the freshman forward took a seat next to athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle on the UConn bench. Stewart missed the third-ranked Huskies’ 72-58 win over No. 15 Louisville with a left ankle sprain suffered during a rebounding drill in practice last Friday. She also sat out UConn’s win at Marquette last Saturday.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he would have used her against the Cardinals in an emergency and he expects her to play when the Huskies host Syracuse at the XL Center Saturday (4 p.m., SNY).

“I think she’s come along a lot faster than we initially thought when she first got hurt,” Auriemma said. “Dr. (Tom) Trojian said she might not be able to play until Monday in the Duke game unless Rosemary can do what she normally does and fix these guys a lot sooner than everybody thinks. I think that’s what happened. She looks good.”

Stewart, who grew up in Syracuse, is averaging 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in 13 games for UConn. Sitting on the bench has not been easy for her.

“Any time where something like that happens, where you roll your ankle, it’s up to the person who’s trying to get better how quickly they get better sometimes,” Auriemma said. “Breanna Stewart wants to play. And she probably made life miserable for Rosemary every day since the injury because she wants to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s on the phone at 2 in the morning saying, ‘What do I have to do right now?’ She wants to be out on the floor. She’s a great competitor.”

Late night with the Huskies
Exactly two years earlier, UConn hosted unranked Louisville at the XL Center for a Saturday afternoon game and sold the place out.

But with it being a Tuesday night and with a 9:10 p.m. tip thanks to CBS College Sports Network, two Top 15 teams played to a building that was either half empty of half full, depending on your perspective. By the time UConn the final horn went off, it was past 11 and much of the late-night crowd of 8,702 had already made its way to the exits.

The UConn-Louisville was the second game of a doubleheader on the network. The Georgetown-Notre Dame game from South Bend started at 7.

“Like anything else you’ve kind of given up your rights to the TV people and they determine the game times more times than I would like,” Auriemma said. “If the goal is to get as many people as you can in the stands then having a 9 o’clock game here in the middle of January is not conducive to that.

“Whoever has to play at 9 o’clock, it’s not ideal. I don’t have any say in it but I wish that I did. It’s the same in the NCAA tournament. Those games are late games. It may be great for TV for people all over the country to watch but I’m not sure it’s that great for fans of the home team.”

With Tuesday’s game starting two hours later than usual for a weeknight, the Huskies spent part of their day watching a Harry Potter movie to keep them occupied.

“It’s tough sometimes because you can get caught up in just lying around and coming out and being more sluggish when the game is later,” UConn center Stefanie Dolson said. “But we all have a pretty good mentality. We know we have to get up and walk around and make sure you’re not sitting in bed all day. No matter what time the game is you make sure that you come out ready.”

The remainder of the Huskies’ weeknight games will start at 7 p.m. with one exception. Their game with No. 1 and defending national champion Baylor here on Feb. 18 is, like Tuesday, a 9 p.m. start (ESPN2).

Free throws
Dolson had 16 points Tuesday night and that gives her 992 for her career. She is in line to become UConn’s 36th 1,000-point scorer … Kelly Faris wasn’t happy that she had just five blocked shots in UConn’s first 15 games. She had two Tuesday night, getting a piece of a Shoni Schimmel 3-point try in the first half and a piece of a Monique Reid layup in the second half … Kiah Stokes earned praise from Auriemma for her play off the bench. In 12 minutes, she had a basket, six rebounds, and three blocked shots … There are about 1,200 tickets remaining for Monday night’s game with
unbeaten and No. 4 Duke at Gampel Pavilion.