• January 22, 2022

Mosqueda-Lewis, Hartley lead Huskies past Stanford in early matchup of rivals

If only…

If only both teams could make as many layups as they missed.

If only all the freshmen involved, not just UConn’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, played like they had big game experience.

If only Nneka Ogwumike had avoided foul trouble.

In other words, if only the game took place toward the end of the season, not the end of November.

It did not, however, and the UConn Huskies defeated the visiting Stanford Cardinal in a less then aesthetically pleasing game, 68-58.

Defense has always been an understated part of the Huskies’ arsenal, lost among the offensive firepower players like Maya Moore, Tina Charles, and Diana Taurasi brought to the program. Coach Geno Auriemma has long said, however, that defense determines if the team will win games, and the offense determines what the margin of victory ends up.

That was the case last night, as under-sized UConn pressed, boxed out, and challenged every play for forty minutes. Senior guard Tiffany Hayes, for example, may have only scored nine points (on 3-15 shooting), but contributed 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. Even Auriemma was surprised by their success defensively inside against the bigger Cardinal.

“I’m not surprised that we played pretty well defensively,” said Auriemma. “I am surprised that we were able to be as effective as we were because the size advantage was against us. But we played so hard for 40 minutes and that’s one of the better defensive efforts I have seen us have in a long time.”

Still, it was Nneka Ogwumike’s foul trouble that was a huge factor in this game. When on the court, Stanford had a legitimate scoring threat, as shown by her 22 points in 23 minutes. When she was forced to sit, the focus of both the Stanford offense, and the UConn defense, went to sister Chiney Ogwumike, who, while a very talented player with a tremendous set of skills, is nowhere near the threat big sister is at this point.

Chiney struggled, hitting only three of twelve shots, and committing five turnovers. While freshman Jasmine Camp played very well, scoring 14 points (five of nine shooting) and Sarah Boothe contributed eight points, there really wasn’t much offense from anywhere else. Highly touted freshman point guard Amber Orrange did not see much playing time, only getting six minutes.

For the Huskies on the other hand, freshman Kaleena Mosqueda- Lewis and sophomore Bria Hartley led the offense, with 25 and 19 points, respectively. Both shot over 50 percent from the floor, and made up for the off shooting night the rest of the lineup produced. Mosqueda-Lewis seemed to embrace the first “big game” of her career.

“It was exciting and a lot of fun out there,” the freshman said postgame, “Our team was struggling a little bit in the beginning. When coach put me in I was thinking, “oh my god”, do something good, do something productive.”

That she did, hitting her first shots, and getting on a roll that she expected was coming.

“Once that first shot goes in, you take a deep breath and know it’s about to start and I’m ready to go now.”

The apparent chemistry between Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis is something that will be crucial for the success of the Huskies not only for this year, but the next two as well.

“Me and Kaleena have known each other for a while and I just think we were able to play together, meet each other at camps and become good friends,” Hartley elaborated, “That chemistry on and off the court, you can see it. We just play together well and we know how to read each other. So, it’s really good every time we step on the court.”

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer while disappointed in the outcome, as usual found teaching moments from the game.

“It was really like a November heavyweight fight. I thought it was extremely physical, one of the games that you usually see in March. I think it was good for our team to see that and get ready for it. It wasn’t pretty. In the second half it opened up a little bit, but some of our turnovers really hurt us and they took care of the ball really well…To come out and battle back a couple of times, I was really proud of our team for that. Tonight was Connecticut’s night. I wouldn’t take anything away from what they did. I think Geno (Auriemma) does a great job and they’re just going to improve. I just want to focus on our team. We need to improve. We were there, and then we weren’t. We couldn’t maintain our scoring, we could never get them down. We never gave up. I thought people battled and was really pleased with different young people coming in.”

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