We won’t know what Geno Auriemma’s plan is for Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck until Sunday when the beatwriters next have their chance to talk to UConn’s coach.
At that point, Geno may tell us that both players are well enough to return from their injuries for the first time since Nov. 11 when the Huskies play No. 2 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Or he may say they are not.
Or he may he still doesn’t know, which could be true or just an understandable way to keep Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie guessing about UConn’s depth chart for this most interesting game.
Then again, McCallie knows what it’s like to lose one of her best players. Last season, guard Chelsea Gray, now a senior, was lost to a right knee injury last Feb. 17. Her team won the ACC Tournament title but was never quite whole again.
“I don’t think people realized what it was like to lose a player like her in February,” McCallie said. “Imagine if Skylar Diggins or Breanna Stewart had been injured. What would Notre Dame or UConn have looked like.”
Duke was eventually eliminated in the Elite Eight by Notre Dame last season and but is back at 10-0 coming into the UConn game. Much has had to do with Gray’s recovery (18.3 points) and how well she has meshed with sophomore guard Alexis Jones (15.3).
“She had to fight back so hard from a very difficult injury. It’s been tough for her, a long-haul back,” McCallie said. “She is a super young woman. I had a college coach say to me, ‘What would have been [had Gray not been injured]’ It was a tough thing for us.”
McCallie, who has not beaten UConn at Duke, was close to the point where Gray and Jones were growing comfortable together when Gray was hurt.
“It’s a lot of fun when they play together,” McCallie said. “I really don’t know who else is out there, but [Jones] she has to be one of the most talented guards in the nation, regardless of her age.
“Having them play regularly together is where we were headed, that’s the bridge we were crossing, right at the time Chelsea was injured. And even though Lex [Jones] was the MVP of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, we never saw what it could have been.”
Many believe Jones, who has two straight games of 20-plus points, may actually be the more versatile guard, especially when it comes to creating offense. One analyst told me last week that the key to beating Duke was making sure to contain Jones’ creative streak.
But its Gray who is the senior and a likely top 10 pick in the WNBA Draft.
“I see that capability in her, but it is entirely up to how she bounces back and how she plays,” McCallie said. “I see no limitations for her. I would not be surprised at anything she does.
“But I just want her to focus now on her senior year and think about what she had to miss last year. She missed an entire NCAA Tournament, a quarter of her entire postseason career. What comes next can wait and you know what, the better the team does, the better it will be for everyone.”