If not for sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Penn State may have pulled off the nation’s biggest upset of the season Thursday night at Gampel Pavilion.
And oh how the tone of today’s conversation would have been different had the No. 2 Huskies not won, 67-52. Right?
“With all the offensive weapons we have, we understand opponents are going to need to be super aggressive to take us out of things we like to do,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “We’ll just need to stay strong and stay smart.”
For the longest time this week, it appeared Mosqueda-Lewis wouldn’t even play.
In the first half of the Maryland game, after scoring seven points in 13 minutes, Mosqueda-Lewis, the Big East’s reigning Freshman of the Year, felt something pull in left quad after being called for traveling.
She had just returned from a concussion suffered in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 24 that forced her to miss UConn’s win over Colgate.
“My knee was all swollen,” she said. “But Rosemary [Ragle, UConn’s athletic trainer] told me she would try to get me back as quickly as possible. And she did. I was just happy to be able to play.
“I’ll just try to stay padded up for the rest of the year.”
After just being cleared to play Thursday afternoon, KML played 35 minutes. She scored eight of UConn’s first 10 points and led it with a game-high 25, shooting 4 of 7 from three with five rebounds, four steals, but six turnovers.
What Auriemma sees in Mosqueda-Lewis is a reconstituted talent, one who sees the game much different than she did last year.
“She spent her whole freshman year kind of wandering around the three-point line, hoping and praying that she would get another opportunity to shoot,” Auriemma said. “[Against Penn State] she had three offensive-foul calls and they were uncharacteristic … She’s done a really good job of getting people off their feet and one-dribble by them for a really a high percentage shot for her.
“But I think when she saw the way the game was being officiated [38 total fouls] she wanted to attack the basket more and that’s her mentality right now. She wants to post up, she wants to attack up the middle. As a result of that she is getting some really good looks outside the three-point line as well.”
During the break, when the players have time to think about basketball, Auriemma would like it if more of them emulated the thought that’s transformed the game of KML, Banks, Kelly Faris and Stef Dolson.
Until then, even though UConn’s has won by a margin of 40.2, he is not going to be satisfied.
“Kaleena’s done what I’d hope most players would do. She took what she was really good at as a freshman and what she was not good at and adjusted her game and now she’s a sophomore and she’s a different player then she was last year.”