Women's Basketball: Stewart and Hartley join exclusive clubs in Huskies win
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 00:02
HARTFORD – It didn’t take long for history to be made Wednesday night.
Within the opening minutes of a 83-35 win over UCF, both Breanna Stewart and Bria Hartley etched their names alongside some all-time Husky greats.
Stewart, who entered the night two points short of 1,000 in her career, got her bit out of the way first with a jumper just 42 seconds in. Hitting the milestone in 63 games makes her the second-fastest UConn player to accomplish the feat, tied with Svetlana Abrosimova and Rebecca Lobo, and behind only Maya Moore (55 games).
She finished the night with 23 points, 13 rebounds, which tied a career-high, and a career-high seven blocks.
Hartley, who needed three rebounds to notch 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists, took a bit longer with the task. It still came quickly, though, as the senior guard grabbed the aftermath of a Stewart block just 4:06 in to join the club. She became the third to do so – alongside only Moore and Diana Taurasi.
“You can tell that Bria’s feeling confident, that I’m feeling confident,” Stewart said. “And to be able to kind of share the individual success with each other is fun.”
Beyond that, though, the night was just more of the same for top-ranked UConn (27-0, 14-0), which continued its demolition of the American Athletic Conference. Through 14 games the league’s inaugural season, the Huskies have won by an average of 37.4 points.
The Knights, which handed UConn its largest deficit of the season when they took a 7-3 lead in their first meeting, led again in this game at 2-0, but quickly went downhill from there. Without Briahanna Jackson, who scored 28 points against the Huskies on New Year’s Day but has since left the team, UCF (10-16, 3-12) struggled to score throughout – Stewart had more field goals (eight) than the Knights (seven) in the first half.
But while this may have been just another routine blowout win, it did mark the extended return of Brianna Banks from a lingering ankle issue.
Banks had missed two straight games and three of the previous five before Sunday’s game against USF, in which she played just the final 1:56 because Auriemma lacked confidence in her readiness to play.
“Brianna Banks probably can play as many minutes as she wants,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “So when she doesn’t play at all, that’s what she deserves. And when she plays 25 minutes, that’s what she deserves.”
On Wednesday, the junior guard checked in with 11:28 left in the first half and managed 25 minutes. She tallied four points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Wednesday also marked the return of Saniya Chong as a presence on the floor for the Huskies. Entering the night, the freshman hadn’t scored in 60 minutes of playing time dating back to the first half against SMU on Feb. 4.
Just like Stewart and Hartley, she dispatched that quickly. A layup 6:23 in broke the draught and Chong went on for nine points on 4 of 6 shooting in 17 minutes in the first half. In the opening half, she also set a new career-high with seven rebounds, breaking her previous mark of six, which she accomplished twice (at Penn State on Nov. 17 and vs. UC Davis on Dec. 5).
“I think it was very important [to break the draught],” Chong said, “because we have limited players. All of us just have to work extra hard. You have to play your part and your role on the team.”
She finished the night with 17 points, 10 rebounds and chipped in with three assists and two steals.
“I would definitely say [I was more proud of] the 10 rebounds,” Chong said, “because my coaches are always drilling me about being aggressive, being aggressive. So I though coming out here, doing the 10 rebounds, hearing that and actually me getting in there and boxing out, I think that was pretty amazing.”
UConn, which has four games left in the regular season, continues its home stretch on Saturday at Houston – the game will be the 1000th of Auriemma’s career. In his 29th season as head coach of the Huskies, Auriemma is the seventh-winningest coach in women’s basketball history with 866 wins.
Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday and the game can be seen on SNY.