By Carl Adamec
Breanna Stewart looked at the stat sheet from Thursday night’s win over UC Davis and was asked about her secret of success for matching her career high of 13 rebounds.
“You know, long arms,” Stewart said with a laugh.
But being a better all-around player is something that the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s sophomore forward is serious about and the Huskies’ coaching staff demands.
So Stewart’s first double-double of the season that included 19 points, five assists to just one turnover, three blocked shots, and a steal to go with the 13 rebounds in the 97-37 rout of UC Davis at the XL Center in Hartford was in line with what she’s trying to get done.
“Rebounding is something that I can excel at,” Stewart said. “I just wanted to focus on it (Thursday) and it worked. And the assists were nice. Five assists with just one turnover, not bad.”
Through 10 games, Stewart is averaging 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 3.1 blocks — all up from a season ago. She is second in the American Athletic Conference in scoring, 13th in rebounding, second in blocked shots, fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio, 13th in field-goal percentage, eighth in free-throw percentage, and sixth in 3-point shooting percentage.
It hasn’t been all smooth for the Most Outstanding Player of the 2013 Final Four but it has been progress.
“When players are really good offensive players, I don’t ever worry when they have a bad game offensively or they do things that are so out of the norm,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I don’t go to practice trying to figure out how to help Stewie score. It just comes. She knows what she’s doing out there and in the course of our offense she’s going to get shots. But she has to put a little time and effort into it. She has to work at it a little bit. And (Thursday) she did.
“But the other things I spend a lot of time with Stewie on. We spend a lot of time on her defense, a lot of time on rebounding, a lot of time on moving without the ball and doing things when she doesn’t have the ball in her hands. Those are the things that we do at Connecticut to help our really good players become great players. I’m not just sitting here saying. ‘Well, Stewie just go get 20 every night, be an All-American and live happily ever after.’ That’s not how it works here. There are so many things she has to do and so many things she has to get better at. She improved this week. From Sunday to (Thursday) she got better. This week in practice she got better.”
Stewart had just eight points last Sunday in the win over Ohio State but did grab nine rebounds and blocked six shots.
She also had 13 rebounds against Oakland (Mich.) and Georgetown a season ago.
“Stewie was talking with one of the other coaches about the fact she was rebounding well and the fact she went hard to the offensive boards,” Auriemma said. “That’s an area of the game not a lot of people pay attention to. She’s very difficult to box out and difficult to keep away from the basket. Stewie should have a double-double every night just like Stefanie Dolson does, close to it anyway.”
Stewart has had a double-double each time she has reached double figures in rebounds.
She was also 8-for-17 from the floor against UC Davis, but did airball a short jump hook in the second half. She had three shots find nothing but air against Ohio State. A minute after her brick against the Aggies, she went to the foul line and a fan behind the UC Davis chanted “airball.”
“I know. But I wasn’t going to airball a free throw,” Stewart said with a smile.
She made both.