Senior Stefanie Dolson and sophomore Breanna Stewart are good friends, long-time friends, friends who joke around and anticipate what the other needs when they need it.
They share the goof ball gene that assures laughter is always a wisecrack away. Not only does this make for great conversation, but it contributes to the symmetry they share on the court as teammates for the No. 1 UConn women, who are 14-0.
When they are not playing or practicing, Dolson says they rarely, if ever talk about basketball.
“No, it’s like we’re hanging out in the parking lot talking basketball,” Dolson said laughing. “We try to keep that stuff limited to the court.”
Stewart says she is friends with everyone on her team.
“Yeah, I don’t want to attributes [the success] to out friendship.” Stewart said. “It’s not like I’m not going to pass the ball to someone because I don’t like them. But being comfortable with the way she plays, makes it easy for us [to excel]. We’re always looking for each other, trying to help get each other open. It’s a lot of fun.”
But when Dolson, who is 6-foot-5, and Stewart, 6-4, aligns on high and low post, it gives UConn the type of attack maybe no other team in the nation has.
“We’ve had that scenario here before in Rebecca Lobo and Kara Wolters,” Geno Auriemma said. “How they get along certainly contributes to [their success], but the biggest thing is they are both very good passers.
“It doesn’t work as well if just one of them can pass. Not only can they both pass, but they are willing passers and very smart. They understand how to take advantage of offensive breakdowns or any scenario that might occur.
“The ability to score and the ability to pass from low post to high post is something not many people have. Some teams have a good high post or a good low post. But it together, it’s not easy to stop and we are fortunate to have it.”
The next opponent to deal with this is Memphis. The teams play at the FedEx Forum immediately after the Memphis men play Cincinnati in the first game of the old-fashion American Athletic Conference doubleheader.
What this means, of course, is that the game could be delayed if the men’s game goes overtime. Or, it could convey a distinct disinterest in the product should the majority of the crowd leave after the conclusion of the men’s game.
This has happened to the UConn women before. On a snowy January night in 2011, UConn was the second game of a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden that featured the Syracuse men against St. John’s in the opener.
Once that game was over, at least 80 percent of the crowd spilled out of the building, leaving the women to play amid the echoes of the historic building.
“I don’t know what is going to happen, doubleheaders are tricky,” Geno Auriemma said. “You don’t know how it is going to go … The Memphis men’s game might go four overtimes and then you are sitting around waiting. That is why you don’t get caught up in that stuff. You have to bring certain energy to the building, as a player, as a team.
“If you spend time on what is happening in the stands you are going to be disappointed. We had the biggest [home] attendance of the year so far against Cincinnati and I thought we were sluggish. You have to bring it. Whoever wants to stay and watch the game, they stay. Whoever wants to leave, they leave. Hopefully since they haven’t seen us in their building, those people don’t know who we are they will stay around because they want to see what all the fuss is about.”
If they stay, Auriemma hopes they will see a reprise of the teamwork Dolson and Stewart displayed Wednesday during UConn’s 77-49 win at Central Florida.
With Stewart on the high post and Dolson working the baseline, the pair combined for a number of Dolson’s 11 field goals. Dolson made 11 of 14 shots and scored 25 points. Stewart shot only 3 of 11, but she had six assists along with eight rebounds.
The sheer size of both players, potential All-Americans this season, is difficult to deal with on an individual basis. Dolson runs the floor better than any post player in the country. Stewart’s unique build and athleticism make it hard for small player to guard her or big players to keep up with her.
Dolson is not only UConn’s top rebounder but is third in assists with 52. Stewart not only is UConn’s top shot blocker and scorer but has 43 assists.
And when they are working in synch, it makes UConn more unbeatable than it it usually is because defenses simply have no way to defend them.
“It’s that way with everyone on our team,” Dolson said. “Teams that hang around with each other outside the basketball court tend to build trust in each other. That translates it good things during games because you want to get the ball to your friend when they are open. You want to be a good teammate.”