Breanna Stewart has breakout game
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 23:03
As demoralizing as their last second loss to Notre Dame may have been, perhaps – just maybe – if the Huskies search for it, they’ll find one great big silver lining.
Breanna Stewart, the No. 1 recruit in the nation when she came out of high school a year ago, absolutely exploded on the offensive end. Her 16 points – 12 of which came in the second half – were instrumental in helping UConn stay with the Irish.
“She played amazingly,” UConn junior center Stefanie Dolson said of her teammate. “You know, I’ve been extremely proud of her this whole Big East Tournament, she really just came out of her shell and just has not second-guessed herself and just has been playing basketball. You know, she’s done a great job of catching the ball, squaring up and just driving – not thinking about it.”
Over-thinking things is what got Stewart – who started her freshman season on an absolute tear – into trouble during the dog days of the regular season. She simply hit a wall and nothing seemed willing to go her way.
And the fact that she wasn’t willing to help herself, often playing tentative, scared basketball, didn’t help.
But in the past three days, she has rededicated herself to an aggressive, act-first-think-second approach that has paid off in a big way.
During the Big East Tournament, Stewart averaged 17 points per game, her best average over any three-game stretch since Dec. 19-29, when she put up 19 per game against Oakland, Hartford and Stanford.
“I think that things are starting to actually show,” Stewart said about her game. “I think there were things that I wasn’t showing as a player and now I’ve put them out on the court.”
Unfortunately, the one time she wasn’t aggressive was when the game was on tied on the last possession.
After leaping and spreading out as far as she could to make an athletic one-handed grab on a wayward inbounds pass, Stewart dished it off to a cutting Kelly Faris rather than look to make the play herself.
“[Stewart] made a great catch and next time she is in that situation after she catches it she is going to square up and catch it and attack the basket and get the foul,” Coach Geno Auriemma said about the game’s last play. “She is too young to understand that right now.”
Growing pains are what this season has been all about for Stewart. But even in the face of what might have been a late-game mistake, she felt the positive from this three day stretch has far exceeded the negative.
As far as her teammates are concerned, the past few days have instilled a sense of trust in her ability to play in tight spots – a vote of confidence that could help make the difference in a close game down the line.
“She made huge shots tonight,” Dolson said, “and that definitely gives us all, I think, a lot of trust and confidence in the fact that she’ll make them in the tournament The Big East is kind of like a mini NCAA Tournament and the fact that she played the way she did in this, I think that all gives us a lot of confidence that she’ll do the same in [the NCAA Tournament].”