If wait long enough in college sports, there’s a good chance that things will change in a very dramatic way.
For the last four seasons, Baylor’s Brittney Griner, the 6-8 center, turned the blocked shot into her own private form of entertainment, setting records with every swat.
But now that she’s gone, UConn’s trio of posts, Stefanie Dolson, Breanna Stewart and Kiah Stokes, have joined together to become the nation’s foremost rejecter set.
Coming into Monday’s game, the trio had combined for 137 blocks, with Stewart (49) leading the way. UConn was leading the nation, averaging 8.1 blocks a game. They added eight in Monday’s 66-55 win over the Lady Bears. Stokes had four of them in just 15 minutes.
UConn has never had a team with three players with more than 50 blocked shots in one season.
In the two previous games against Houston and Temple, the Huskies had blocked 31 shots with Dolson tying career single-game highs with seven in each game.
“You can coach shot-blocking. But in the end, it’s like someone who is a really good passer,” Geno Auriemma said. “You can coach them to be a better passer, but you can’t coach them to be a great passer. Great shot-blockers just have a sense about how to do it. It’s a God-given ability, one you can work on and study to help make better. But some players just don’t have it.”
Seven Huskies in USA Basketball Pool
UConn placed seven on USA Basketball’s 33-player pool from which the 2014 World Championship team will be picked. Along with Olympians Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird were current players Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart.
Six college players are among the group. Auriemma said if he has his way no college players would be in the pool.
One year older
Stewart (18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists) had a much better game Monday than she did last season against Baylor as a freshman when she played only seven minutes, took two shots and did not score. Two months later, she was the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. But she was 4 of 14 from the floor.
Odyssey Sims may be the best guard in the nation this season. Sims came to Monday with 16 straight games with at least 20 points, dating back to last year’s NCAA Tournament game with Louisville. And she scored another 20 Monday, although she was 4 of 25 from the floor and didn’t score in final 10 minutes, 54 seconds.
But Auriemma hasn’t seen anyone from the underclass to match what he has. “From what I’ve seen, I don’t there’s a freshman guard I’d rather have than Saniya Chong or a sophomore guard I’d rather have than Moriah Jefferson.”
Chong played only three minutes Monday, but Jefferson had 13 points, five assists, six rebounds and no turnovers in 38 minutes.
A different night
UConn’s challenge Monday was quite different against Baylor with Griner no longer around to clog the middle and confuse thought.
“It changes things a lot,” Jefferson said. “What do you do when there is 6-foot-8 player on the floor? There isn’t a lot. But with a guard, you can try to stop her penetration of throw a zone at her. It’s not as hard as guarding someone that big.”
Dolson agreed the challenge may have been something UConn was more experienced with.
“There’s no getting around it; it’s different,” Dolson said. “When you have a 6-8 girl there who can block everything in sight in the paint it’s different. But we’ve played teams with great go-to guards. You need to keep her in front of us [defensively] and don’t let her score her average.
In Baylor’s last 269 games, only Stanford (50.9) had shot 50 percent or above. Last season, the Cardinal broke BU’s streak of 217 games of holding opponents to under 50 percent shooting. Under Mulkey, BU has held foes under 50 percent in 456 of 468 games. UConn was shooting 50.5 percent this season. It shot 36.7 percent Monday …UConn, outrebounded for the first time this season on Saturday by Temple, won the battle against Baylor, 41-39, despite 17 rebounds from Nina Davis. Baylor was leading the nation in rebounding margin (plus-16.1) … UConn’s 24-game winning streak ties it for the sixth longest in program history… The Huskies had 15 assists on 22 baskets. They came into the game averaging 21.4, just shy of the program record (21.7) for a single-season … Morgan Tuck missed her second straight game with knee soreness. The sophomore has missed 10 games this season.