Breanna Stewart: So Polished, So Unfinished

by Categorized: Breanna Stewart, UConn women's basketball Date:

The opening moments of UConn’s final possession during the Big East tournament championship game served to illustrate what’s so polished and unfinished about Breanna Stewart.

When Kelly Faris’ pass to the right flank carried high and far Stewart needed to flag it down with one hand. And she did with a remarkable show of instinct and athleticism.

But once with it, her next step was not quite as definitive, setting into motion the sequence that led to Notre Dame’s winning basket with 1.8 seconds left Tuesday at the XL Center.

“Stewie made a great catch,” Geno Auriemma said. “And the next time she is in that situation, after she catches it, she is going to square up, attack the basket, score and get fouled.

“But she is too young to understand that right now. It is one of those plays where you only need two [points] and foul or just a foul. When Stewie caught it, I thought we were in great shape.”

Stewart’s freshman season has been one of alteration and adaptation, not unlike those experienced by every other rookie in UConn history.

But when you are the national high school player of the year, as Stewart was in 2011-12, the bar is set above the rim.

“Coach always says he expects you play at a level above your years [class],” said sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who preceded Stewart as high school player of the year. “And being asked to do more than people expect is not something that should surprise you when you come to Connecticut.”

After scoring 20 or more points in three of her first four games, and scoring more points in her first 10 (169) than any player in UConn history, Stewart’s offensive game slowed.

She scored 20 just once during her final 18 regular-season games and averaged just 9.6 points. She was scoreless in seven minutes against Baylor, two in 12 minutes at South Florida, five in 40 minutes in triple overtime at Notre Dame on March 4.

She scored single-digits eight times over the final two-thirds of the season.

But she was one of UConn’s brightest lights in the Big East tournament, scoring 51 points in its three games – the same amount Diana Taurasi had in her first conference championship.

Her play in the second half of the title game against Notre Dame was exemplary. She led UConn back from an 11-point deficit to tie the score at 59 by making 5-of-8 shots and scoring 12 points.

“Breanna played amazingly well,” Stefanie Dolson said. “I was extremely proud of her during the Big East tournament. I think she emerged from her shell by not second-guessing herself and just playing basketball. We are going to need her. She showed up [Tuesday] and we are going to need her going forward.”

Stewart averaged a team-high 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 30.3 minutes in the tournament and made the all-tournament team.

“I’m not a different player, but some things about me [her game] are starting to show that weren’t before,” Stewart said. “In the second half [Tuesday] I felt like it was how I want to play, that’s the type of player I know I am. But I just can’t show it one half. I need to start doing it for a complete game to help us to win.”

That brings us back to the final play against the Irish on Tuesday, the one which began with 18 seconds to play and the ball in Faris’ hands at mid-court.

When Stewart caught the ball, she was somewhat off-balance when she landed.

“I wasn’t in the right spot to be able to just put it up at that point, but I think that I could have looked to be more aggressive by taking the ball to the basket,” she said.

Auriemma was thinking the same thing and later lamented not taking a timeout to settle things down. Instead, he watched Stewart return ball to Faris, who circled around and headed down the baseline, only to find her path blocked.

That led to a pass to the far left corner to Mosqueda-Lewis. In the process of catching it, the sophomore had to leave her feet and was heading out of bounds as she landed.

That led to her attempt to loop at pass back out to Bria Hartley. And that’s where Skylar Diggins stepped in to intercept it and lead the break down the floor which ended with Natalie Achonwa’s basket and UConn’s demise.

“I was thinking we should take the last shot of the game,” Stewart said. “Maybe I should have shot the ball. Maybe it’s something I need to think about and work on going into practice and the NCAA Tournament.”

UConn will find out Monday which region, and against whom the path to a possible eighth championship will begin.

But one thing is certain: The Huskies will need a strong, productive Stewart.

“I had an inkling Stewie would play better than she has in a while because she practiced better [before the Big East tournament] than she has in a while.

“Stewie is used to playing USA Basketball, where you play eight or nine games then you go back home.  She thinks three games [in the Big East] and then maybe six after that is her way of doing this.

“Five months [the regular-season], maybe she said ‘That’s not what I signed up for, man.’

“So I think she is in her comfort zone now.”

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40 thoughts on “Breanna Stewart: So Polished, So Unfinished

  1. Allen Freshler

    Love this girl, great potential, a basketball natural. She is more like the NBA or WNBA style player and has trouble fitting into the offensive plays of Uconn. She will. Much of this game comes from the natural or broken play happenings. She is gifted in this area and can create her own offense if needed and given the support of the coaches. The coaches also need to set more picks for these creative players. Go with your talent which is in abundance in the current classes.

    1. Breanna's Buddy

      Ms Dolson was high in her praise of her post buddy, Stewie. Rightly so.
      I,don’t want to second guess Geno–so I won’t but If I were coaching I’d have had a hard time keeping her on the bench. I fully believe coaches, great ones, teach when they take players out–explain what they did wrong and put them right back in–Geno has been doing that in the last 5 games.
      Stewie, Jefferson, Tuck and even Stokes are getting “educated” in Big Time Div one basketball–by the master.
      Usually Geno has the luxury of bringing Freshmen along slowly–a few minutes here and there. This has a different kind of year–the new kids are needed or Uconn will miss a final 4.
      Now the world won’t end with that–Geno will still be great–and the kids will learn. But it would be Soooo nice to show ND what Uconn is really made of, now wouldn’t it.
      Maybe the Media would forget the last 3 ND games with UConn and touting them as some major victories. They were NOT~~~

      1. Bracchus

        To suggest that beating a team 3 times like UCONN, which is loaded with former high school top players in the country, is not a major victory streak is ludicrous. Not only did they beat them 3 times in a row and 7 of the last 8, 2 of the last three were on UCONN’s home court. Please. Notre Dame is an excellent basketball team with an excellent coach and some excellent players. They do what they need to do to win.

        1. Muffets Boy toy

          Notre Dame needs to play the game and not huff and puff during and after.

          Diggins isn’t the best guard in the country Sims is.

          Notre Dame, if you review the 3 games lost by Uconn–was luck to come out with wins.
          They are not the best team–not the most poised team-even Diggin threw the ball into the stands. In the second game, when ND thought they could lose it, Diggins, fell down, McBride turned it over twice, Achowa couldn’t sink a lay up. Yea, that’s a great team (sarcastic)

          1. Bracchus

            They beat UCONN three in a row this year. If your comments are true, what does that make UCONN?

            The test of a great team for me is whether they do what they need to do to win-period. ND passes the smell test on that one.

          2. My Muffet

            Bracc–You are right Notre Dame does meet the SMELL TEST–they stink.
            one point victories or 3 overtime victories does not anoint anyone a champ.
            It does speak to a level of Luck–dirty play–and One talented player McBride.\How the refs let the slapping and hand checking, pulling pushing done by all of ND’s team–is a negative mark on the New Pope, Notre Dame, and the Refs.

          3. Bracchus

            I think you are underestiamting a very good team. Your assertions as to officiating incompetence might be credible for one game, possibly two, but three-please. The true teat of a team’s resolce is whther they can win the close games. UCONN did not and ND did. Diminishing ND does not elevate UCONN.
            Let’s face it, ND is no where near being intimidated by the formidable UCONN and its irrascible coach. They come to play, and play they do. McGraw has become one hell of a coach and Geno’s superiority in this regard is being challenged on several fronts. No one dominates forever. Geno has veterans and talented freshmen. They did not do enough to win-period.
            By the way, that doesn’t mean that UCONN isn’t a great team. This time there are probably at least two that are probably better.

      2. Jeannie Dettorre

        Right on! We CAN show ND we are winners. One thing we are not is whiners and drama queens when the least little thing goes array . Foot stomping and face making doesn’t make for sportsmanship as getting up and moving on down the court when a foul is called or the ball goes the other way . And, there are
        many other great guards in the country!
        Go Huskies!!

        1. Jeannie Dettorre

          One thing we are not is whiners and drama queens ????

          Just a bunch of loser whiners always blaming the refs and acting like no other team has injuries except ucant

    2. How can you say that?

      I don’t think we need to know Breanna Stewart is Polish or that she isn’t Finish. I don’t think the Poles or Fin’s will be pleased with either representation. Ethnic or National or Racial demeaning remarks must be kept out of this postings..

  2. Slvrhwk

    Stewie is not the problem and never was. Except for Kelly’s play in the first two thirds of the season the GUARD play has been subpar all year. You can’t win against top teams without consistent, quality guard leadership and ball control. Baylor proved that against Stanford when Sims went down. Great to hear that dbl B’s surgery went well. She has to be the starting point guard until Mo matures. Hopefully Saniya will be another Jewel as a quality shooting guard which Bria
    currently is not. Given the off season, Tuck’s knee should heal and the front line will be great (mostly). Geno’s biggest challenge is going to be finding a way to motivate Kiah. She has all the tools to be as great as Tina was. The hard part is finding the way to turn a daydreaming pussycat into a focused tiger.
    Sitting her on the bench all game is obviously not the solution. Even as unfocused as she currently is, she could transfer and start for 95% of all the other teams.

    1. Guru

      SlvrHwk. Tuck is getting about all the time she actually asks for–I sound like a broken record –but she’s still recovering from knee surgery last year. She will be great, but only off and on this year. She will not transfer-that’s a given.
      My concern is about Stokes–she plays well, very good at times–but doesn’t get the time to learn more and show her vast talent. She hasn’t got the fire lit yet–but 900 teams in the USA will take her tomorrow and start her.

      Baylor wanted MoJeff, mulkey was dissed that Mo chose UConn. She was supposed to be Sims back up this year. Mo Jeff is a real talent.
      Since you mentioned Tina–Geno was always kicking Charles behind to get her motivated. Kicking Stokes doesn’t have the same effect. I think Stokes is a carrot kind of girl–Charde was allowed to play (Geno had no one else who could score) why not give Stokes some good playing time, he may be pleasantly surprised.

    2. Bracchus

      Kiah is Kiah. I suspect that basketball is not her true passion. I understand that she is an excellent student and may be one of those kids who happned to be tall and have some athletic ability and just took advantage of it. If that is the case, the thing to do with her is focus on her strengths and use them for the betterment of the team. When Stokes, Stewart and Dolson were in together it seems to me that ND could not break loose. That is when they started trading baskets with UCONN. That lineup clogs up the middle and forces the guards to take jump shots or cut drives short and pass or force shots.
      If I were Kiah, I would develop some basic offensive moves around the basket. My guess is that she would be very successful.

      1. Muffets Boy toy

        Bra—You are right about Stokes. However, she has shown moment of working well under the basket, especially with the high low. Also she had dropped in the 10-12 ft shot in games. Her potential is very large.
        He Daddy and NBA star, is well off so the kid hasn’t had to work much for anything. Her talent seems to be natural–
        I was touting the 3 big line up with dolson, Stokes, Stewart and the 2 bigs stewie and stokes when dolson rested. It works well when the 2/3 zone is used.
        If I were Geno (which I’m not) I’d be using the second 2 big combo often in the games up to Elite 8 and get these guys time together to build chemistry.

    3. FREDDYKOOL

      and never win a National Championship, stay with the MASTER and win in life, u win in basketball, and you win with UCONN NATION!!!!!!!

  3. stephan

    unbelievable! geno actually blames stewart for the last play and loss. she’s smarter than he is. she thought we should take the last shot. absolutely. that’s what 99.9% of teams will try to do. oh, as an afterthought, geno says maybe he should have called a timeout. and that was after his decision to shoot with 15-18 seconds on the clock, leaving n.d. with the last shot. duh. hopefully geno takes as close of a look at himself and is just as critical as he is of his players(esp. freshmen).

    1. Big Jim

      I don’t often pile on; but, Stephen has stated it exactly right.

      No fault to Geno…no fault to Kelly.

      Is he FFing kidding….

      Kelly makes two dreadful plays:
      1) Almost throws the ball up into the stands on the inbounds, except for the exceptional reach by Stewart.

      2) Almost throws it up there again on the awful “pass” to Lewis.

      Geno: Makes two dreadful call:
      1) Inbounds from miscourt to the far deep corner, with eighteen seconds on the clock.

      2) Didn’t call the second timeout to reset, when the first play borke down.

      To then throw the Freshman (Stewart) under the bus because she didn’t try to score from off-balance and with seventeen seconds on the clock. Seriously wrong thinking by Geno as the Freshman clearly made the correct decision to bring it down.

      Kelly, with just 4 points in 40 minutes and 4 turnovers made the two poorest plays of the entire sequence.

      Very disappointing, indeed.

      1. Friday's man

        I may be misreading Geno on this , but my take on his comment about Stewie was a teaching moment–1. Stabilize you self, if possible take a step or two and let fly for the score–the kid had been doing just that all game. 2. He wants her to know what to do next time she’s in that position.

        Speaking this in the media–as much as I detest it–is Geno’s way. I don’t know why he things it’s proper to complain about his kids in public I’ll never know.
        I learned that if you say anything bad about YOUR kids–those words will be fed back to you as fact.
        Management 101—chew out in private, praise in public. Or you get more flies with honey than vinegar. Sometimes a pat on the back works well–if applied low enough (my mothers).

        1. Bracchus

          I think that it is terrible to criticize these kids publicly in the media. They are not perfect and the mistakes that they make are not for a lack of effort. Yes, it is his job as coach to teach them. But, public criticism is not the way.

          1. Muffets Boy toy

            Brac—Sad but true. Why Geno feels he must publically complain about his own is beyond me. I bet his wife would have a fit if he complained about his own children in public. These are someone’s kids.

            FYI–I know Notre Dame is a good team, with excellent talent and full of shooters. I strongly feel that will not and cannot beat Baylor–and UConn can. The focus on fans is the momentary game’s end lapse in poise and attention–that should not define this team–I’m a terrible player, but played a lot. Players were always throwing passes to where a player was or should have been. When you anticipate correctly, you are great, when you don’t you are a goat. Especially in big games.

          2. Bracchus

            Muffett – I think UCONN can beat Baylor too. They almost did. But, I suspect that in a second meeting it might be a bit harder. Griner is on a tear and the likelihood of her scoring only 2 points in the first half is much less.

            But, even with that being said, UCONN has the option of a number of player combinations that might be frustrating to Baylor. The Dolson, Stokes and Stewart lineup could be particularly effective. The guards will have to get KML the ball on the 3 pt line. Remember her 26 points kept us in the last matchup with Baylor. Then the guards should protect the ball and not waste possessions.

            The problem and the key will probably be Dolson. If she gets in foul trouble, it will be difficult for Stokes or Stewart to stop Griner or slow her down. I might put in Buck periodically just to get physical with Griner and force her away from the basket a bit.

          3. Kevin Cavanaugh

            I agree, Bracc, public criticism is most inappropriate – unless it is of yourself (Geno). On the other hand, he cannot overly praise when it isnt warranted.

            UCONN has a handful of very good players at various stages in their development.

            Dolson, with help from great conditioning and weight loss is probably at her best – but even Dolson has her moments – like when she was flatfooted in the last 15 seconds of the game – not sure of what to do. Enough about Dolson – she is human also.

            KML was frustrated the whole game – she was hawked the whole game and did not have too many opportunities to get 3′s off. I am sure fouls could have been called. No one can defend KML that closely without fouling her over and over again.

            Faris had her miscues and Hartley sure did not control the ball well.

            All these women are college level – they are not WNBA and thy will continue to have their moments of greatness and will make mistakes or bad decisions.

            Coach did not throw Stewie under the bus. He simply said she made a great one handed catch. A few more weeks down the road or next season, she might have attempted to drive toward the basket and scored – that did not happen – she was not slammed by coach.

            For KML to have more opportunities to shoot 3′s that game, it would have required more from Faris (maybe Kelly shooting long 2′s or layups or even 3′s to take the focus away from KML). Maybe it might have been Dolson shooting high post shots – either way, KML did not get the help to take the focus off of her.

            Truthfully, I have almost forgot who wore “23″ before KML did – that is how much I am appreciative of how she has grown since arriving from Mater Dei.

            The season is far from over for UCONN. If they gel like they are capable of, they will go far.

            If they meet ND again, I am sure the results will be vastly different. Bracc and I and others have said over and over that 2 – 3 bigs in the paint will shut down the inside game.

            KML, Dolson/Stokes, Stewie/Tuck, Jefferson, and Faris….. PERIOD.

            The pairings on Monday will be exciting to see.

          4. Seriously Kevin ?

            You just threw Maya under the bus
            3036, 1200+ rebounds, etc.

            Let me know when KML is a 4 time AA, wins 3 POY, and wins 2 NC.

            Scratch the 4 time AA off the list. Scratch the 3 POY off the list.

            You’re no better than Dolson fans who continue to throw Tina under the bus.

          5. Bracchus

            We have been very fortunate as UCONN womens basketball fans to have the quality of players that we have had over the years. None of them should be thrown under the bus.
            I think what we are experiencing now is the agony of defeat. It is funny, Ihave heard some pople in Connecticut say that they never watch the girls because UCONN is always up by 30 at halftime. To be sure, those are rather boring games. Now, our team has lost 4 games this year, 3 to the same team and 1 to last year’s national champions with everybody back and we are not used to it. Nothing lasts forever.
            The thing that we fail to understand is that the Muffett McGraw’s and the Kim Mulkey’s also want to win. They are also recruiting the best players.
            I am certainly a big Monday morning quarterback, but let’s be realistic as well.
            How do you think it would feel to be a Chicago Cubs fan. Please.
            We have great basketball here.
            But, let’s also understand that the cult status of UCONN women’s basketball willbe challenged, much like UCLA on the men’s side after Wooden retired, or more relvant the Tennessee women’s team. Women’s basketball is becoming more popular than ever. As more and more competent players come inot the system and go to the top basketball schools, the competition will be stiffer. You can see it in some of the lesser schools on UCONN’s schedule. Some of them can hang in for about a half. Then UCONN”s talent simply overwhlems them. But amny of those schools are a player or two away from being major contenders.
            I will be honest. I thought the first win this year by ND was good for women’s basketball. youwant some suspense. Even the second one given the excitement of a triple overtime was also good for the game. I can’t go any further though.
            As for the NCAA tournament. It is Baylor’s to lose. Should be fun though.

  4. CD Changer

    Geno has had a thing for Kelly since day one. And for Doty. They both are overrated by media and fans drinking Geno Juice from the tap because of it. STOP BELIEVING EVERY PIECE OF CREPPE THAT COMES OUT OF HIS MOUTH.

    1. Geno juice tapper

      I’ve disagreed with Geno–on the phone. He has very thing skin–especially when he is wrong.
      One thing most don’t know about Geno is he is VERY LOYAL to his players current and past, to his friends, to Uconn, to Conn, to the USA, and to Italy.
      He and his team gives back to the town,county and state a dozen times a year –demanding no media attention.

      There are aspects of Geno that rub me the wrong way–but not his coaching nor his loyalty.

    2. Bracchus

      Geno has his favorites and it is obvious. That was extremely apparent when he kept Doty in that triple overtime ND loss. He always seems to be searching for some non-tangible reason to keep her in the game. Faris works hard.most coaches like that. But, early on she was really a liability on offense. He let her slowly develop her offensive game. Other players seem to be given less rope.

  5. nhntc47

    Let Breanna Stewart play. Do not always remind her “you’re a freshman”. Let her play, she might have a bad game, anyone can have a bad game. Look at the way Diggins played against Baylor. Judging from that one game, some might say that she’s overrated and even Doty is better.
    When Breanna has a bad game, she just has a bad game, not because she’s a freshman. Just tell her “you had a bad game, fine. You’re BS, kick some butt next game”.

  6. COMIC RELIEF

    GENO IS THE REASON UCONN LOST 3 GAMES THE HUSKIES COULD HAVE WON. GENO IS ARROGANT. GENO IS STUBBORN. GENO HOLDS BACK UCONN PLAYERS PROGRESS IF THEY DONT KISS HIS A$$. IT HAS BEEN OBVIOUS FOR 4 YEARS DOTY AND FARIS KISS HIS A$$. HOW ELSE DOES DOTY SUCKS PLAY ALL SEASON? HOW ELSE DOES FARIS SUCKS NOT GET BLAMED BY GENO FOR FOCKING UP THE LAST 25 SECONDS AGAINST NOTRE DAME NOT ONCE BUT TWICE? MUFFET OR KIM OR TARA OR JEN OR A HANDFUL OF OTHER COACHES WOULD HAVE THIS UCONN TEAM UNDEFEATED.

    1. coach777b

      Comic Relief your diatribe is anything but comic. And what’s up with the All Caps? You must have seen all those caps on your screen. Perhaps you were so intent on trashing Geno that you couldn’t grasp what was going on.
      Anyway, now we know how you would coach if you we’re Head Coach at UCONN. Unfortunately for you Comic, but fortunately for us real supporters of UCONN, that is never going to happen. I suggest you haunt the sites of Notre Dame, Baylor or Stanford. I’m sure those coaches are looking for mindless invective to help them complete their season. Good Luck & Good Bye!

    2. Edward

      You are ridiculous. I remember when Diana was always kissing his butt (irony, in case you don’t get it).

  7. Ted

    John,

    You have really outdone yourself to write a second bad post about the same play at the end of the game. You are a disgrace and a complet A–hole, to say nothing of having a limited grasp of writing the English language. You should resign for the good of UConn women’s basketball coverage and the good of the Courant.

  8. FREDDY UNKOOL

    FREDDY KOOL—OR LMA0–OR SINKHOLE FREDDY.

    NO NEED FOR YOUR SWEAR WORDS IN ACRONYMS–ONLY COWARDS USE ACRONYMS.
    IF YOU DISAGREE WITH A COMMENT–SAY THAT. ACT LIKE AN ADULT NOT AN OVER THE HILL ALZHEIMER SUFFERER. THE FIRST SYMPTOMS OF ALZHEIMER IS THE ACTING OUT AND CALLING NAMES–

    1. FREDDY UNKOOL

      says the person who copied and pasted the acronym it was complaining about

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