When Geno Auriemma said Wednesday he was concerned the season was close “to getting away” from sophomore Morgan Tuck, he was referring to a decision Tuck and the staff may soon have to make about her future.
Tuck missed her fourth straight game against Memphis with a bone bruise of the right knee. She missed eight games early this season after arthroscopic surgery to her troublesome left knee, which frequently bothered her as a freshman.
As a result, Tuck has played in only eight of UConn’s first 20 games. And at this moment, according to a UConn spokesman, she still would qualify to receive a medical redshirt for the season since she’s played in less than 30 percent of UConn’s 31-regular-season games.
That ratio would evaporate soon should UConn – and Tuck – decide to keep playing this season.
The injury Tuck has now is extremely problematic. Auriemma said she essentially has a small crater on her knee cap. There really is no way for the training staff to predict how quickly she might respond to treatment. And even then, Tuck would have to work herself back into game shape.
“Morgan is very frustrated,” Auriemma said.
Tuck’s health is also critical to the future of the program. When Stefanie Dolson graduates, the Huskies will be down a post player. Right now, only four big guards are in the freshman Class of 2014, although 6-4 A’ja Wilson of South Carolina, the No. 1 player in the high school senior class, has yet to decide between UConn, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Should Wilson pass on UConn, the Huskies front line next season would feature Stewart, Kiah Stokes and Tuck.
If Tuck were to decide to opt for a redshirt, she could play a fifth season in 2016-17, instead of leaving the program with Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson in 2016.
Heather Buck accepted a medical redshirt after dealing with mononucleosis as a freshman and played last year as a fifth-year student.
New day, new record
Jefferson’s breakthrough sophomore season seems to take on new dimension every day. She came into Wednesday’s game without a turnover in her previous two (70 minutes) at Baylor and Rutgers. And then against Memphis, she set a career single-season mark with nine steals in 32 minutes. Only Cathy Bochain (1980) and Jennifer Rizzotti (1996) with 10 each have ever had more in a game.
“Over the last month, Moriah has really started to get involved defensively; more aggressive, take more chances, try to do more things,” Auriemma said. “Usually when you are that athletic, and you do that, good things happen more times then they don’t.
“She is getting her hands on a lot of passes. She is getting her hands on loose balls. She was a little bit ahead of herself today offensively. But she has become, defensively, where it all starts for us. She is putting a lot of pressure on the ball. She is making it tough for people to go where they want to go and do what they want to do.”
And now this: Jefferson has a legitimate chance to finish this season with at least 100 rebounds, 100 steals, 200 assists and 400 points.
After 20 games, she had 203 points, 98 assists, 58 steals and 56 rebounds. That accomplishment would again put her in company with Rizzotti, the former All-American, who as a senior in 1995-96 had 418 points, 112 steals, 222 assists and 126 rebounds.
Junior guard Brianna Banks was able to play just three minutes against Memphis because of a slight ankle injury originally sustained last week. Auriemma said Banks aggravated it in practice on Tuesday. Her status for Saturday’s game at the XL Center against South Florida is unclear.
Stewart scored 16 points Wednesday, bringing her within 139 points of becoming the 39th player in UConn history to score 1,000 points. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kelly Faris both reached the milestone in the same game last season, Feb. 23, 2013 against Seton Hall on Senior Night.
Stewart has played in 56 games in her career, meaning she is already past the point of challenging Maya Moore’s mark of reaching 1,000 faster (55 games) than any player in program history.
But Stewart could do it quicker than Svetlana Abrosimova (63) or Mosqueda-Lewis (64), who sit right behind Moore, UConn’s all-time scoring leader.
Also, Bria Hartley (1,648) passed Barbara Turner into 13th place all-time on Wednesday. Next on the list is UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph (1,678). And Stefanie Dolson (1,564) is now in 16th place, 19 points behind Swin Cash.