Sunday’s win was UConn’s third straight last week against Top 13 teams; Stanford went down in Hartford, then Maryland in College Park. And Sunday, it was Penn State.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Geno [Auriemma],” said Penn State coach Coquese Washington. “As a coach, certainly he’s set the standard for all of us in the profession. He’s also been willing to share, with me personally, about coaching and different things. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s done for the game and what he’s done by being willing to schedule us. For him to say positive things about our program, that means a lot.”
And with the exception of Monday’s 76-57 win over the Cardinal in Hartford, it has been done with just seven players. Junior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (elbow) and sophomore Morgan Tuck (knee) are out indefinitely.
UConn does not know when Mosqueda-Lewis or Tuck will be back, although its not likely before the Christmas break. Mosqueda-Lewis is having her elbow checked again this week to see if the compressed ulnar nerve causing her so much pain has begun to heal. Once those tests are done, UConn will know more.
“I’m not sure about how the rotation will eventually play out, I mean, that’s coach’s decision to make,” said Breanna Stewart. “But I know the seven players we do have, and the the walk-ons, are all comfortable playing in any combination he wants.”
This should not be a taxing week for the Huskies. They play Oregon Wednesday at the XL Center before starting a round-robin tournament involving Boston University (Friday), Monmouth (Saturday) and St. Bonaventure (Sunday). The first two games will be at Gampel, the last in Hartford.
“I think the thing that has always been key for us it that we always try to approach every game the same way, regardless of who or where we’re playing. If we keep getting better, it’s going to be harder to beat us, whether on the road or at home. If we stay stagnant and don’t move forward from here, we’re setting ourselves up to get beat.”
Bria Hartley found new life Sunday. She followed up her 4 of 21 against Maryland by tying her career-high with 29 points against the Lady Lions. She made five threes, three coming in the final six minutes after a Penn State rally had cut UConn’s 23-point lead to nine.
“You have to be ready, you have to be aggressive and you have to make plays,” said Hartley.
The team has survived two games against elite competition dealing with some form of foul trouble. On Sunday, Moriah Jefferson had four fouls in 30 minutes, Breanna Stewart and Stefanie Dolson three each.
Their defense, seemingly also superb, is in mid-season form. Stanford, Maryland and Penn State combined for just 62 field goals.
And freshman Saniya Chong, who scored 16 points in 27 minutes Sunday, is the real deal. She has turned the ball over just twice in 77 minutes.
The depth of great players he has served as the punch line of his postgame address.
“I know it sounds simplistic, but the teams that consistently contend for the Final Four and national titles are the ones who get the best players. And it doesn’t matter the sport.”