Stewart puts best foot forward in exhibition win

By Carl Adamec

For 28 seasons under coach Geno Auriemma, playing time with the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team is earned in practice.
That philosophy will never change. But don’t blame Auriemma if Breanna Stewart makes him reconsider at some point.

Stewart, who missed practice Monday and Tuesday with a sore right foot, scored 21 points as the second-ranked Huskies closed out their exhibition schedule Wednesday night with a 119-50 rout of Division II Holy Family before an announced crowd of 1,300 at the XL Center in Hartford.
“I think I’ve done some good things but I’ve done some bad things too so there’s still a lot to learn,” Stewart said. “It’s only my second game and they were both exhibition games.”
Stewart injured the foot in last Friday night’s exhibition win over Indiana University of Pennsylvania at Gampel Pavilion. There was even a question whether she would play Wednesday night since she had missed two days of practice.
Not only did she play, she started.
“It was kind of a game-time decision, just because of the swelling,” Stewart said. “But the swelling really went down a lot today so I was very happy because I wanted to play. I was happy with how it felt.”
Stewart was 7-for-14 from the floor and hit two of her four 3-point tries. She also had four rebounds, two blocks, and two steals in her 25 minutes.
“It’s going to take a lot to guard her,” Auriemma said.
Seven players scored in double figures for the Huskies, who averaged 112.0 points in their exhibition wins. Brianna Banks added 20 points while Stefanie Dolson chipped in 15, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck 14 apiece, Moriah Jefferson 12, and Caroline Doty 11.
The two mainstays that didn’t hit double figures contributed in other ways. Kelly Faris had nine assists while Kiah Stokes had six rebounds, four assistsm and seven blocked shots.
UConn shot 58.1 percent from the floor and was 18-for-34 from behind the arc.
“I don’t think offense is going to be a problem for us,” Auriemma said. “I say that, but it’s not going to be every night where you go out and make 18 threes. We probably took more threes tonight than I’d like to see us take, but the other team can dictate that too. They just put five guys in the lane and dare you to shoot it.
“We’ve got a really good shooting team. We shoot the ball well in practice every day and have guys that can make shots from a lot of different spots. I hope I’m right, but I don’t think scoring points is going to be one of the issues we have going forward.”
Scoring was not a problem but the Huskies’ defense had some problems with Holy Family.
When Ana Cruz hit her second straight 3-pointer, the Tigers had a 20-19 edge midway through the first half.
“They didn’t come up here from Philadelphia to see how much they were going to lose by,” Auriemma said. “I don’t think many people realize that these teams, they’re pretty good. They ran their stuff in the first half and made the most of the shots that they got. That’s why you have exhibition games, so you can clean up stuff like that.”
But before Holy Family became the second coming of Chaminade 1982, the roof caved in with a barrage of UConn treys.
Mosqueda-Lewis hit two threes in a 11-0 run that put UConn ahead for good. The Huskies pushed the advantage to 58-38 at the half.
Yes, Holy Family scored 38 points in 20 minutes against a Division I team that perennially is among the leaders nationally in scoring defense. Fourteen times in 38 games a year ago, UConn’s opponents were held to 38 or fewer points for 40 minutes.
The Huskies scored the first 26 points of the second half to blow it wide open. Banks got them into triple figures with a layup with 10:11 left.
“In the first half I felt like we just took this team and everything for granted,’’ Banks said. “We felt we were just too good to work hard. And Coach let us know that. So in the second half we had to step it up and we did.”
Banks was 8-for-9 from the floor and hit all four of her 3-point tries. She was 3-for-24 from behind the arc as a freshman.
“Is it one of my strengths? Not yet,” Banks said of her perimeter game. “I’m getting there.”
Doty, who sat out against IUP because of a left knee issue, played 13 minutes and hit all four of her shots.
UConn had 35 assists on 43 baskets and forced 25 turnovers.
Cruz and Erin Mann had 11 points each for Holy Family, which is ranked No. 12 in Division II. The Tigers begins the regular season Sunday against No. 2 Bentley.
The Huskies also open their regular season Sunday when they play host to College of Charleston at Gampel Pavilion.