MESSAGE FROM BRIDGEPORT
It was time for somebody to send a message and last night in Bridgeport the top seed UConn Huskies came through loud and clear. Two number one seeds had already been eliminated from the women’s NCAA basketball tournament, Stanford on Saturday and, more stunningly, Baylor on Sunday, and it was time for someone to serve notice on the road to New Orleans. The Huskies spoke up in high decibles and the voice that roars above the rest is that of freshman forward Breanna Stewart, the most needed piece in the UConn puzzle, who’s 21 points last night in the Bridgeport Region final led the Huskies to a 30 point rout of second seed Kentucky and earned her region Most Outstanding Player honors. In January against Notre Dame at Gampel Pavilion Stewart looked like what she was, a freshman, one who looked like a deer in the headlights when confronted with the cream of the national crop. In February at the XL Center she saw just seven minutes against Baylor. The Huskies were a long way from sending any messages to anyone and Stewart was a big part of the problem. In March the carousel spun for Breanna Stewart and the national high school Player of the Year Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey had coaxed to Storrs emerged as she earned All Big East Tournament honors before sitting out the first game of the NCAA tournament with a minor injury. Since her return she’s been dominant on the way to the highest regional honor on the road to the final four. With Stewart’s fellow freshmen Moriah Jefferson, who’s become an unstoppable waterbug as she darts from coast to coast to the hoop, and Morgan Tuck, who had six points and three rebounds in sixteen minutes in the biggest game of her college career so far, the UConn coaches have nine players they can insert into any situation with confidence. With the way they raced through the region to get to New Orleans, to a player, the Huskies believe they’ve made the nation stand up and take notice as they head into their record sixth straight final four. “I think I would”, said Bria Hartley, after a ten point effort, when asked if she’d be afraid to play UConn right now, “You see our team and you see the talent level and how many weapons we have. We’ve found better consistency and been able to rely on everyone instead of just one or two people.” “That’s what we wanted to do”, said Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis, after earning all region honors, “Send a message. It’s not gonna be easy when you play against us and it’s not gonna be just one or two players coming at you, it’s gonna be everybody on our team.” Junior center Stefanie Dolson alleviated fears of being hampered by a stress fracture in her left foot when she hauled down 11 rebounds in the regional final. “The way we played”, she said of the run through the region, “We were extremely confident and we trusted each other and how we can play. I think teams noticed that and how we went through our region shows we’re ready.” “We just played great”, said coach Geno Auriemma of the regional championship game, we played great on defense and our offense was exactly what we needed it to be. I’m really proud of these guys, they’ve become a really, really good team in the last month.” The message is loud and clear, and last night everyone in the nation got the word. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.