By Carl Adamec
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis admits that for years the first and only thing she would look at on a stat sheet was how many points she scored.
But after scoring 19 points Sunday in the No. 2 University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s 103-39 rout of College of Charleston, the sophomore forward knew exactly how many rebounds (8), assists (4), steals (5), and turnovers (0) she had against the Cougars. The points were an afterthought.
If there’s a sign of growth out of a 64-point win, there it is.
“(Assistant coach) Shea Ralph was telling me that she was proud of me for how much I’ve grown and that was nice to hear,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I’m trying to get more things done, more things accomplished. It’s important that I not just score, but play an all-around game.”
It was actually Mosqueda-Lewis’ shooting that got the Huskies off to a fast start Sunday. After Charleston scored the first basket, the Anaheim Hills, Calif., native nailed three consecutive 3-point baskets during a 19-0 run that put UConn in charge.
She finished 7-for-15 from the floor, including 5-for-10 from behind the arc. The Huskies used good ball movement to find her and Mosqueda-Lewis did her part by keeping herself on the move.
“A lot of times last year I would get stationary and just stay at the 3-point line,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “This year I have to do more than that. I have to be more active.”
While Mosqueda-Lewis is working on making an impact at both ends of the floor, it’s still her shooting ability that opponents fear.
“Whatever defense you’re in, somebody has got to be specifically in charge of defending Kaleena, otherwise you’re going to give up a lot of threes,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “What happens is you’re going to assign somebody just to her and then the other guys are playing 4-on-4. And it’s a lot easier to win a game 4-on-4 than it is 5-on-5 because the less people that are on the floor the bigger the floor is.
“So by Kaleena spreading the court out and making it so big, she helps everybody. Now what happened last year is she would stand in one spot, somebody would guard her, and that’s all she would do. So we were playing 4-on-4 and it was great. Now they have someone assigned to her and she’s a good 3-point shooter, obviously. But she’s also involved in making other plays so now a lot of times we’re playing 5-on-4. And that’s the difference she’s made for us.”
The Huskies stayed at No. 2 in the Associated Press poll released Monday.
They are off until Sunday when they travel to College Station to face No. 16 Texas A&M. The Aggies dropped one spot in the poll after a season-opening 47-45 loss to ninth-ranked Louisville.
“We want to continue to play Connecticut basketball and keep the intensity up,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “We want to make sure we’re focused on little things, execute the things offensively we’ve worked on in practice, and try to make them as uncomfortable as we can with our defense.”
Morgan Tuck had to wait less than five minutes Sunday to make her first regular season appearance for UConn.
A minute later, the freshman forward from Bolingbrook, Ill., made a move in the lane and took her first shot. It found nothing but air. Auriemma could only look skyward.
“He didn’t say anything then but I’m sure that he said something on the bench,” Tuck said. “But, you know, he knows we’re going to shoot some airballs, even if they’re from three feet away. He understands the nerves are there and I just had to make up for it.”
Tuck did just that, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds, and four assists in a solid all-around effort over 22 minutes.
“It was good to get past this one, get the nerves and jitters out,” Tuck said. “I was just happy to be out there.”
Freshman Breanna Stewart led UConn with 21 points. The Huskies’ third rookie, Moriah Jefferson, struggled with first-half fouls and turnovers but ended up with four points, four rebounds, and five assists.
Auriemma knew he would be receiving a basketball Sunday to commemorate his 800th career win. But the surprise of the pregame ceremony was that associate head coach Chris Dailey also was given a basketball to commemorate the milestone. The coaches, who arrived together in 1985, received a standing ovation from the crowd of 6,221.
“It was great to surprise her because CD thinks she’s on top of everything,” Auriemma said.
Auriemma picked up his 800th win when the Huskies defeated Notre Dame in the 2012 Big East Tournament final. Of note, Dailey had coached UConn to Big East Tournament titles twice (1989 and 1997) in Auriemma’s absence.
That’s one more tourney crown than Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw have combined.