By Carl Adamec
As Ashley Stoner sank the second of two free throws Friday night, Indiana University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball coach Jeff Dow turned to his bench and shared a laugh with his assistants, as if they were going to call a time out to
get a picture of the scoreboard that read IUP 2, UConn 0.
Maybe they should have.
The Huskies responded with the next 16 points and never looked back as they routed IUP 105-28 in an exhibition game before 5,462 at Gampel Pavilion.
“It looked like I thought it would,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “There were times it looked like we have a lot of things to work on. There were other times that we looked really good.
“The best thing was that as we went on it got better and better. There wasn’t that drop off that you worry about. It was good, as much as it can be for an exhibition game.”
Six Huskies scored in double figures led by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ 24 points. Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck added 15 points each, Stefanie Dolson 14, Kelly Faris 11, and Moriah Jefferson 10.
UConn had only nine players available due to injuries to All-American Bria Hartley (left ankle) and fifth-year senior Caroline Doty (left knee).
Without last year’s starting backcourt, Auriemma gave the nod to freshmen Jefferson and Tuck as they joined joined veterans Mosqueda-Lewis, Dolson, and Faris in the starting lineup. The third rookie, Stewart, entered the game for the first time at
the initial media time out.
“I didn’t know I was going to start until I looked at the board right before the game and I thought, ‘Here we go,’ ” Jefferson said. “It was good to get the first one out of the way and get all of the jitters out. I could have done better but I thought it was OK.”
UConn’s three freshmen combined for 40 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and four blocked shots.
“They did the things they’ve always done but this time it was at another level,” Auriemma said. “They’ll get up to speed.”
Much anticipation surrounded Stewart, the consensus high school player of the year last season.
It wasn’t all smooth but there were glimpses of why she was the Big East preseason freshman of the year.
“I know it was an exhibition but I looked at it like a real game,” Stewart said. “I thought we played well as a team but we still have a lot to work on.
“Putting on the UConn uniform for the first time was really exciting. I committed here halfway through my junior year of high school so I had waited for awhile. To have our team win and play like we did, it was a lot of fun. Whatever we (the
freshmen) can do for the team, we’re going to do.”
Two years ago, UConn defeated IUP 100-41 in an exhibition and Friday night’s rematch was a mismatch as you’d expect a game between a top Division I team and a Division II team would be.
Tuck scored the first four points and Stewart the last two of that 16-0 run that erased IUP’s only lead. Six players scored in a 13-0 run that made it 33-6. UConn then tacked on the final eight points of the period for a 50-13 halftime lead.
IUP got no closer. Kiah Stokes got the Huskies to the century mark with 2:46 left on a layup off a pass from Heather Buck.
“I really like the makeup of this team,” Auriemma said. “Compared to the last two years, we have a lot of options. I think we can handle most situations.”
Six of the nine players Auriemma used Friday night were either freshmen or sophomores.
“There’s no denying that they have talent,” Auriemma said. “Our challenge as a coaching staff is to keep working on getting them to be smarter than their age so that they’re not playing like freshmen and sophomores in February and March.”
Sarah Pastorek led IUP with eight points. The Crimson Hawks shot 20.8 percent from the floor, finishing with 10 field goals and 28 turnovers.
Hartley is out indefintely with her ankle injury. Doty tweaked her surgically-repaired left knee at Friday’s shootaround and was held out for precautionary measures. She is expected to practice Saturday.
UConn plays its second and final exhibition game Wednesday when it takes on Division II Holy Family at the XL Center in Hartford.