No Toeing The Line About It: KML Needs To Get There More

by Categorized: Geno Auriemma, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn women's basketball Date:

When Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis went to the free throw line with 10:58 play Saturday at Cincinnati, it was noteworthy for a reason way beyond the score.
UConn was leading by 43 at the time, just like it has done so often this season against second-tier teams.
What made the two free throws significant was they were the first Mosqueda-Lewis had attempted since Jan. 4 at Memphis and just the seventh and eighth she’d taken this season.
For an All-American scorer who has played 400 minutes this season, who likely is the best free throw shooter on the team, it was a show-stopping moment.


“When you are a good free throw shooter, you are passing up opportunities [by not going to the line],” Geno Auriemma said. “When Diana [Taurasi] was a freshman, she shot like 35 or 40 [36 of 41] and then 150 [112] when she was a senior.
“When you are a good free throw shooter you need to go to the line. It’s just an attitude. It’s about making the conscious decision, ‘that’s what I want to do.’ We are trying to constantly reinforce that and she’s getting better at it at practice. But her tendency is to be outside [on the perimeter] all the time.”
No. 1 UConn (23-0, 10-0) is sailing along, its 86-29 win over Cincinnati as complete a whitewash as it has administered. It has won 29 straight. The Bearcats shot just 23.9 percent and had 24 turnovers.
But Auriemma’s goal resides at the Final Four in Nashville – a ninth national championship. And before he gets there, in the attempt to get there, he wants his players performing close to near the top of their potential.
For Mosqueda-Lewis, that involves broadening her offensive repertoire by doing more things than what she does better than anyone else – shoot three-pointers.
“I need to be more aggressive going to the basket,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “Last year, most of the free throws I got [68 of 76, 89.5 percent] came from posting up smaller guards. I kind of got away from that. Now that I am trying to get back to that and maybe the same thing will happen.
“Dribbling past defenders has never been my strong point in the first place, but hopefully I can get there [foul line] more.”
Mosqueda-Lewis set a program record with 118 three-pointers last year. UConn’s opponents know how lethal she is from the perimeter, and so does she, which is part of the problem.
“If you are a good three-point shooter and play against a good defensive team, it’s not hard [for it] to take you away,” Auriemma said. “But someone who goes hard to the basket is hard to take away. If you want to grow as a player, you need to figure out how to complement your three-pointer or that will go away, too.”
It’s hasn’t been an easy year for Mosqueda-Lewis. She lost eight games after injuring her right elbow against Stanford Nov. 11. And her recovery has been slow.
In fact, her 17-point game Saturday was her second straight double-figure effort. She’s done just twice this season after ending last year with 13 in a row.
“It’s a struggle when you come back [from injury],” said senior Bria Hartley, whose junior season was compromised by a cranky ankle. “It’s kind of hard. At first, you know the team has gotten so accustomed to playing without you that you feel somewhat lost. I know where she is coming from.
“To be honest, I think she’s done a lot better than I did when I tried to come back last year. I took a lot longer. You can see now she is starting to score more. She has the right mindset; more confident, not doubting herself.
“But it [her free throw total] tells me someone who shoots free throws as well as she does needs to be more aggressive; get into the paint, post up or drive. She’s probably the best free throw shooter on the team. But you wouldn’t know it because she doesn’t get there enough.”
Not only does UConn want that day to come, but so does Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott, who recruited Mosqueda-Lewis for UConn before leaving to join the Bearcats.
“If she’s the same kind of person as she was then, that means she’s a winner,” Elliott said. “And she wants to win by any means necessary.
“She understands it’s more important to win than anything else. I’ve always known her to be that way. I don’t think she’s any different now. And I know Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson know they are a better team with her.
“Her free throw total tells me she’s a shooter who is looking to shoot. But after looking at film [of UConn] you could see they are looking to post her up a lot more. So they are trying to do more things with her.
“As for what I would say [about her lack of free throws], well, that’s good for the other team because she’s a great free throw shooter and that means less points [UConn] is scoring.
“But I know Coach [Auriemma] will continue to  expand her game by helping her drive the ball and post up while not losing her three-point threat.”

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