UConn women are off and running

UConn freshman Moriah Jefferson (4) defends against College of Charleston's Jill Brown during Sunday's season opener at Gampel Pavilion. The No. 2 Huskies rolled to a 103-39 victory.
UConn freshman Moriah Jefferson (4) defends against College of Charleston's Jill Brown during Sunday's season opener at Gampel Pavilion. The No. 2 Huskies rolled to a 103-39 victory. Fred Beckham/AP Photo

Storrs - In any ordinary season, the thought of three freshmen and two sophomores on the court at the same time, might lead to, you know, a little shortness of breath for UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

What transpired at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday then just goes to show this is no ordinary year.

"You could be here 10 years and not make some of the plays these three make," Auriemma said, alluding to freshmen Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson, all of whom were high school All-Americans. "It's a luxury as a coach."

The second-ranked Huskies won their season opener 103-39 Sunday against the College of Charleston before an announced crowd of 6,221 in a half-empty arena, dull as far as the point spread goes. But the UConn offense maintained a spark throughout, led by 21 points from Stewart.

Stewart finished 8-for-11 shooting with five rebounds and four steals. Sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was next with 19 points, with five 3-point field goals, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists, while freshman Morgan Tuck had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists.

In all, the Huskies had six players in double figures - Stefanie Dolson had 11 and Caroline Doty and Brianna Banks had 10 each - and that was without starting junior point guard Bria Hartley, a WBCA All-American last year who is out with an injury to her left ankle.

Stewart, a 6-foot-4 freshman from Syracuse who was the national high school player of the year last season, started the game along with Mosqueda-Lewis, Dolson, Doty and senior Kelly Faris. Stewart was selected to take the opening tip in her first appearance as a Husky.

"I think from the time I committed (to play at UConn), that was the thing I was looking forward to," Stewart said. "Just waiting and looking forward to playing my first game here was something that I was itching to get at. Starting, I was nervous; I'm not going to lie. But the two exhibition games eased us into it a little bit.

"I just felt comfortable. I was just playing the game. I don't think I was doing anything out of my element."

It was Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis, with one added pull-up bank shot from Doty, who scored the Huskies' first 19 points of the season in succession, with Mosqueda-Lewis hitting three of her 3-pointers during that span to lift UConn to a 19-2 lead. At one point Stewart had a blocked shot on defense and then finished the play by scoring on the other end. The Huskies led 57-13 at halftime.

Auriemma said he chose Doty to start because with the absence of Hartley he needed stability in the backcourt.

"Of all the people we have available, that's Caroline," the coach said.

And he chose Stewart to start instead of bringing her off the bench, a decision he mulled over recently, because of her sheer talent.

"Breanna Stewart has become right now … she's able to kind of like Maya did, change the game as it's being played. She's the one player on the floor that nobody has an answer for," Auriemma said.

The young lineup will be put to a tougher test immediately, as the Huskies play at No. 15 Texas A&M next Sunday in a nationally televised game.

"It's our three freshmen's first road trip," Auriemma said. "They're going to go play against a really good team. (Sophomore) Brianna Banks is going to play a lot. I don't remember her playing any big games on the road last year.

"The young guys are in for a treat. I hope they're going to respond the way I think they're going to respond."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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