UConn women’s college basketball is dotted with examples of those who could have turned collecting triple-doubles into a hobby, if they just had the time.
In their case, time does not relate to years. It meant minutes. And since most of the games they played were essentially over in the first 20, UConn’s scrapbook of All-Americans didn’t play as many minutes in the second-half as opponents fighting for their lives did.
Once multiplied over 150 career games, that adds up to a lot of lost time – and squandered opportunity to do great statistical things as a individual; not really UConn’s thing, but cool nonetheless.
That’s what contributed to the guilt Geno Auriemma – “back in the day,” as he says – that led him to play a freshly injured Nykesha Sales long enough at Villanova in 1998 to score the choreographed basket that allowed her to become UConn’s all-time scoring leader.
“She could have scored 4,000 points [in her career] if she played more than we let her,” said Auriemma Wednesday. But he didn’t.
So that’s what made what senior Stefanie Dolson did Wednesday against Oregon at the XL Center so noteworthy.
Dolson became just the second player in the history of program to register a triple-double when she rang up a career-high 26 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in UConn’s 114-68 win over Oregon at the XL Center.
Not since 1989, before the Final Fours and national championships, had a UConn player done this. That was Bristol’s Laura Lishness in a Big East tournament final game; 14 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against Providence.
“The points to me don’t matter,’’ said Dolson. “We’re all going to take our turns in points. In terms of rebounds, I’ve reached double-digits in the last few games so I’ve been happy with that and just tried to keep that up.
“But for me [the pleasure comes from] assists. Like I’ve said, I have always prided myself with the way I pass the ball. I have never gotten double-digit [assists] so it was very exciting for me.’’
The chance for Dolson and her teammates to rack up more big numbers will be plentiful this weekend. The No. 1 Huskies (5-0) open a three-day tour of lower mid-majors with Friday’s game against Boston University at Gampel Pavilion.
This round-robin tournament, which includes Monmouth and St. Bonaventure, continues Saturday at Gampel against Momouth. The Huskies play the Bonnies Sunday in Hartford.
Dolson is already an All-American, but now she is likely the best center in the game. No one can shoot from the outside, pass from the high post and run the floor like she can. She will give WNBA teams a lot to think about on draft day.
And she was admittedly floored by her work on Thursday, even though Oregon played no defense and took shots Auriemma later described as “indescribable.”
“That’s crazy. I’m honored,’’ Dolson said. “There’s no other word to describe it. I was really surprised when they told me that. I never expected it. So I’m just very happy.
“I think every player tries to improve every part of their game. And, for me, I’ve always been a good passer. But since getting here I’ve gotten better at scoring, gotten better at rebounding, and I’m just very proud of myself. And I’m proud of my teammates for finding me and for allowing me to get this tonight.’’
Auriemma’s affection for the affable Dolson is clear. He has called her the nation’s most coachable player. And soon he may call her one of the most complete he’s ever had.
“Nobody deserves it more than her,” said Auriemma. “I don’t know how many other ways I can say it. There’s nobody on our team that works any harder in every single drill every single day to get ready to play than Stefanie does.’’
Dolson had 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists at the half and already had a conventional double-double with eight assists when she left the game with 13:13 to play. But Auriemma put her back with 7:30 left and after a few misfiring, Dolson set upo Kiah Stokes for her 10th assist with 1:20 to play.
“Stefanie is a pretty good example of someone, who over the last three years, has worked hard to get her mind and her body in the same spot. And the result of that is there’s nothing on the court she doesn’t think she can do,” said Auriemma. “You watch her and she beats guards up the floor. She runs the floor as hard as she possibly can.There’s better athletes than her. There’s kids that are faster than her that don’t run the floor the way she does. So she pushes herself to be really, really good. That’s No.1.”
“Heck, she’s a better ball-handler than most guards. And she’s exactly where she wants to be in life. And because of that, everything she wants to do she believes she can get it done. She guards people without fouling, for the most part. She scores inside and outside. She passes the ball. She helps breaks pressure.
“She’s our leader on the floor. Her personality is what drives our team.’’