The No. 2 UConn women’s basketball team heads back into conference play when they host American Athletic Conference newcomer Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane (6-7 overall, 1-1 AAC) will be visiting the XL Center in downtown Hartford tonight at 7 p.m. (SNY, ESPN3).
The Huskies (12-1, 2-0) are coming off a 70-54 victory against St. John’s at the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden last Sunday. It was their closest game and their lowest offensive output of the season.
UConn will be looking to use this conference game to improve upon a few things:
· Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has not been herself in the past week. After breaking a tie with Maya Moore for second-place in the UConn record books for 3-pointers made, she failed to connect from long-range the past two games (0-for-5). Mosqueda-Lewis is only four made threes away from breaking Diana Taurasi’s career record of 318. The senior needs to be a bit more assertive finding her shot. She has scored a combined 11 points the past two games. Mosqueda-Lewis averages 14 points per game on the season.
Expect Mosqueda-Lewis to be a bit more aggressive tonight so she can break the record in front of the home crowd.
· For the most part this season, the UConn bench has been non-existent. In the big games this season, Geno Auriemma has only gone two deep. UConn does not have a deep bench this season and Auriemma complained after Sunday’s game that he wants to use his bench more but they have not been reliable. The bench is young and needs to develop as foul trouble may happen in games this season.
The only consistent factor off the bench has been Kiah Stokes. Stokes has been a defensive force in every game this season. The 6-foot-3-inch senior only averages 5.6 points per game, but she is averaging 8.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks while only playing 19 minutes per game.
However, Soniya Chong and Gabby Williams have been inconsistent. Chong often looks out of control. She had two great offensive games at the start of the season, including a season-high 20 points in the loss to Stanford. She started the first two games of the season. But since coming off the bench, Chong’s scoring has decreased, and she did not score against St. John’s.
Williams, a freshman, had three great games in late December. She looked like the second-coming of All-American Swin Cash. She earned All-Conference recognition. However, she has struggled offensively of late. In the last three games, Williams only scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds.
In addition, freshman Courtney Ekmark missed the first half of the season due to an injury and has gotten a few minutes off the bench in the last two games.
Look for Auriemma to use this game and future conference games to start fixing his offense and defense. Hopefully, the bench can respond to his call for action. The Huskies should not be challenged in this game or any upcoming American Athletic Conference game. In wins against SMU and East Carolina last week, UConn beat those two opponents by 51 points in both games. Expect a similar result tonight.
On the other hand, Moriah Jefferson has gotten out of the funk she has been in. The junior point guard has found her shot. Over the past four games, Jefferson has been the best offensive player for the Huskies. She has averaged 18.5 points and 4.5 assists over the past two weeks. Look for her to continue this hot streak.
Redshirt sophomore Morgan Tuck continues to complement the Husky offense as a reliable second or third option behind Breanna Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis. Tuck has been phenomenal so far this season and is coming off a game-high 23 points in Sunday’s win.
Of note, former UConn freshman Sadie Edwards from Meriden transferred to Southern California. She left the UConn program last month looking for more playing time. She will be eligible to practice immediately with the Women of Troy, but cannot play until January 2016 per NCAA transfer rules.