FIRST HALF RECAP: UConn 50, Texas 24
Geno Auriemma's squad turned in another dominating first half today in their Sweet 16 match-up in Albany against Texas. Star forward Breanna Stewart was close to outscoring the Longhorns on her own, falling just four points short. Stewie pulled down 8 rebounds as well. We still have a full half to play.
In addition to Stewie's 20 points, Moriah Jefferson dropped 13 on 5-6 shooting from the field. Texas has no answer for her, or really anyone on this UConn team. Kiah Stokes has been a force down low, with 4 rebounds and 3 blocks. Sophomore forward Morgan Tuck added 9 points.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has 7 points, and is 1-1 from three-point range. She sits 6 made threes away from breaking the NCAA career record.
This game as actually somewhat close, with Texas closing it to within seven after two straight baskets from Ariel Atkins, making it 26-19. UConn would go on to score 13 unanswered and finished the half on a 26-5 run.
In spite of all this, UConn had the ball with a chance to get one last bucket at the end of the half and failed to get a shot off. Geno proceeded to let his players have it, a reminder that his mission with this team goes beyond the box score.
It must be incredibly tough to keep this team focused while they're winning so big so often. We know we have the right man at the helm to keep our players sharp and take them to the top of the mountain. Again.
This is a story of contrasting seasons between UConn and Texas.
Back in November UConn had fallen in overtime to Stanford in Palo Alto. The Cardinal became the new No. 1 team in the national polls. But then Texas came into Maples Pavilion and beat the top-ranked team in the country.
It looked like things in Austin, Texas were finally starting to click. They ended the calendar year with quality wins against Tennessee and Texas A&M.
They were once a proud national power looking to reclaim their throne. Then conference play started and injuries started piling up; Texas looked like a train wreck.
In a stretch from mid-January to mid-February, the Longhorns were losers of 8 out of 10 games. They were a far cry from what they were projected to be.
The tides shifted again in late February and early March, where they rebounded to a 9-9 record in the Big XII. They earned a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the Albany Region, but had to win a road game at 4-seeded California in the second round to advance. This is their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2004.
On the other hand, UConn has won 33 straight games, including a second round win in Storrs on Monday night against Rutgers, since their lone defeat at Stanford. This is their 22nd straight appearance in the Sweet 16 and they only failed to advance twice during that span (1999 vs. Iowa State and 2005 vs. Stanford). The Huskies have never lost to the Longhorns (5-0) and are 2-0 against them in the NCAA Tournament.
This Texas team is long in the frontcourt and could cause the Huskies some problems. The Longhorns start 6-foot-7 Imani McGee-Stafford and 6-foot-5 Kelsey Lang. They are the tallest team UConn has faced all season.
Just as the Huskies have done all season, the frontcourt must stay out of foul trouble. Breanna Stewart (6-foot-4) and Morgan Tuck (6-foot-2) are versatile players that can pull McGee-Stafford and Lang away from the basket and open the lane for Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse for backdoor cuts.
But it all depends on the officials. Texas likes to play physical and the Huskies are coming off a game against a physical Rutgers team. That was a five point game before the Huskies went on a run to open up a 20 point halftime lead en route to a 91-55 win.
Expect the 6-foot-4 Kiah Stokes to give the Huskies valuable minutes off the bench defending the Texas frontcourt. Stokes is a defensive force who blocks shots and rebounds the ball. She was the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
In addition, UConn will try to speed up the pace of the game. They did this against South Carolina back in February. Jefferson is one of the quickest guards in the nation and is nearly impossible to stop in the open court.
Texas will need to put up a stellar defensive effort if they are going to have a chance in this game, as they only average 68 points per game. Unfortunately, there are only three instances this season where UConn has been held under 80 points.
If one player is not scoring, others step up. For example on Monday, Stewart was held to 8 points, mostly due to foul trouble, but Jefferson had 19 and Tuck dropped 16. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who only needs 6 more three-pointers to break the NCAA career record for made threes, finished with 23 points.
The winner of today's match-up will face the winner of Louisville-Dayton in the regional final on Monday night at 7pm.