Women's Basketball: UConn takes on St. Joe's in seniors' last home game
WeÂ´re gonna crush Â´em. - Chris, 7th-semester, criminal justice.
The No. 1 UConn women's basketball team faces St. Joe's in the second round of the NCAA Tournament tonight at Gampel Pavilion, marking the last game seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley will play at home. After a dominant start in the first round against Prairie View, the Huskies (35-0) look to keep their perfect record alive as they take on the Hawks.
"Natasha (Cloud) said it well; they're competitors," St. Joseph's head coach Cindy Griffin said. "If you're going to play in this tournament then why not play the best and challenge yourself against the best."
Despite the quick turnaround between tournament games, the Huskies are ready to play and look to give Dolson and Hartley one last great game at Gampel. Dolson and Hartley racked up 27 points combined against Prairie View. They were the leaders in the first few minutes of the game, keeping the pace high as the Panthers struggled to adjust.
"This year especially Bria and Stef have really been kind of the tempo-keepers on this team. You know, making sure things go they way they are supposed to," Kaleena Mosqueda- Lewis said. "I think that you can tell the dynamic of the team changes when they aren't out there. They have been really consistent people for us on the team."
Although this is the seniors' last hurrah at Gampel, they will have to share the spotlight, as all eyes will be on sophomore point guard Moriah Jefferson as well. In the past five games Jefferson has racked up 49 points, 17 steals and 17 rebounds and head coach Geno Auriemma considers her the "X factor" of the team.
"She does so many things that impacts the game," Auriemma said. "The one thing that other teams' are not counting on is her making shots from the perimeter."
With Jefferson shooting confidently and playing her best, Auriemma believes it is a huge plus and harder for the competition when all five of the players on the court are playing at their greatest.
"I think sometimes (Moriah) doesn't get all the recognition that she deserves," Breanna Stewart said. "If she keeps playing the way she's been playing this whole season throughout the NCAA tournament people are going to have to look at her even more."
The game against Saint Joe's will be a fond matchup for Auriemma, not only because it was close to where he grew up in Philadelphia, but also because he got his start as an assistant coach at the university in 1978 and 1979.
"I was a St. Joe's fan long before I coached at St. Joe's. Maybe because my coach played at St. Joe's in high school or because they represented more of what I thought I was," Auriemma said. "Even before I coached there, there was a huge love affair I had with St. Joe's University. Watching their teams play in '68, '69 and '70 so when I got there it was like wow."
No. 9 St. Joe's (23-9) was led by senior guard Erin Shields with 18 points and seven rebounds in the Hawks' victory over Georgia in the first round Sunday night. St. Joe's led by eight points at halftime and kept Georgia at arms length throughout most of the game.
Tip is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPNU.
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