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Freshmen make impression

By Vickie Fulkerson

Publication: The Day

Published November 11. 2010 4:00AM
Jessica Hill/Associated Press
UConn freshman forward Samarie Walker (11) blocks a shot by Indiana of Pennsylvania's Brianna Johnson during the second half of an exhibition game Wednesday night in Hartford. Walker had 22 points and 15 rebounds off the bench in the Huskies' 100-41 win.
Hartley, Walker show ability to score in Huskies' final tuneup

Hartford - It started out as the beginning of the Bria Hartley era, with UConn's heralded freshman starting the women's basketball team's second exhibition game Wednesday night at point guard. She came off the bench in the Huskies' first exhibition game last week.

But it turned out to be a little bit of the beginning of the Samarie Walker era, as well.

Walker, a 6-foot-1 freshman forward, finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds off the bench on 9-for-10 shooting and Hartley had 18 points and seven assists as top-ranked UConn beat Indiana University of Pennsylvania 100-41 at the XL Center.

The regular season begins Sunday against Holy Cross in Storrs.

At the very least, the Huskies, in the midst of a 78-game winning streak, have found a few more players other than returning starters Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes who can score.

"These two guys, when they get it, they're trying to score," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "That's at least a prerequisite to being good at this level. The two of them have that in abundance.

"Bria got off to a great start. That's two games in a row Samarie's been the saint. That's pretty impressive to see her do that two nights in a row. She's got a knack for the ball. She's got a certain toughness in the lane."

Moore, the reigning Wade Trophy winner as national player of the year, had 15 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals. She made all seven of her field goal attempts. Hayes scored 12 points and freshman center Stefanie Dolson had 11 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Hartley, who was a finalist for national high school player of the year last season at North Babylon (N.Y.), said she was a little nervous playing at the spacious XL Center for the first time.

"When we came out as strong as we did, hitting shots we had good offense, good offense, play after play," Hartley said. "I think (the freshmen) made a good start. We just have to continue, meet those expectations and just get better."

UConn hit its first 12 shots of the first half, including a pair of 3-pointers by Hartley, and when the Huskies did finally miss Lorin Dixon got the offensive rebound and gave it to Walker for another basket. UConn led 35-5.

The Huskies went on to shoot 74.1 percent from the field in the first half to lead 51-14, 62.7 percent for the game.

"They don't have the luxury of being real freshmen," Moore said of UConn's five rookies.

Speaking of Hartley, Moore said: "I think she has a very aggressive mind-set, that excitement you get from starting the game. But she's one of those players it shouldn't matter (whether she starts or comes off the bench)."

And more

As expected, UConn received three letters of intent Wednesday from recruits Brianna Banks, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes, who gave her verbal commitment just last week, all members of the high school class of 2011. Mosqueda-Lewis, a 6-0 forward from Anaheim, Calif., is the top-ranked recruit in the nation according to ESPN Hoopgurlz, leading Mater Dei high school to a No. 1 national ranking last season, and is a two-time Parade Magazine first-team All-American. Banks is a 5-9 guard from Newnan, Ga., and a first-team All-Metro selection last season by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, averaging 16.5 points per game. Stokes, a 6-3 center from Marion, Iowa, is the state's Gatorade Player of the Year and enters her senior season with 1,079 points, 867 rebounds and 374 blocks, leading Linn-Mar High School to a 26-0 record and an Iowa 4A state title last year.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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