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UConn women still motivated by Stanford loss

Nearly two months removed from its loss to Stanford, the UConn women's basketball team still hasn't forgotten. And they won't forget any time soon.

Forty-nine days removed from a loss to Stanford, the Huskies still use the night of Nov. 17 as motivation moving forward.
Forty-nine days removed from a loss to Stanford, the Huskies still use the night of Nov. 17 as motivation moving forward.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

For most teams, going 49 days (and counting) between losses would be quite the achievement.

The UConn women's basketball team is not most teams.

It's been 49 days since that stinging, 88-86, overtime loss against Stanford. And over those past 49 days, the Huskies certainly haven't forgotten about it.

"[Geno Auriemma] still brings up the Final Four game against Notre Dame my freshman year," Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. "So he definitely still brings up the Stanford game, just as a reminder and a learning mechanism."

As all that watched it know, the Huskies were far from themselves that night in Naples. Their defense, as the 88 points allowed will attest, was poor. Their offense, at times, was stagnant.

So now, if and when those, or any other, red flags begin to appear again, Auriemma is not afraid to play the Stanford card.

"That's basically when he starts to push it, is when we're not playing the way that we know we should," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "When we're not playing UConn basketball, he reminds us of that day and he reminds us, 'You know, this is what could happen again if you guys aren't careful.'"

But it's not just Auriemma that is quick to remember the loss. His players, they feel, have heeded the warnings.

"[The players] bring it up all the time," Breanna Stewart said. "I don't think, in particular, that we talk about Stanford, because we don't want to think about it, it's so far away. But we know there's a certain level that we need to play at, day-in and day-out. And if we're not doing that, or our energy's not at that level, we're going to get on each other."

Since the loss 49 days ago, UConn has played against three other Top 25 teams - No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 25 DePaul and No. 10 Duke. They've passed those three tests by an average of 27.7 points.

"I think you can see that a lot of people have stepped up," Stewart said. "Moriah [Jefferson] has stepped up and she's playing completely different than she did vs. Stanford. Morgan [Tuck] is being more aggressive, that kind of thing. And once we add our aggressiveness from our bench, and hopefully we continue to add that, it's going to be a lot better than what we were in November."

Still, despite the improvement, you can bet that Auriemma and Co. will keep coming back to the night of Nov. 17 between now and the first week of April.

"We're not proud of the way we played that night," Mosqeuda-Lewis said. "And it's definitely not something we want to be reminded of constantly, but we know what [Auriemma] is trying to do to whenever he does say it. He's trying to make sure we keep that in the back of our minds so we're always working hard."

Combine the pain of that loss, the motivation it provides and the strides the Huskies made thus far, and it yields a certain mindset.

"I'd like to play Stanford again," Stewart said.