The UConn Huskies are one of the favorites to challenge the Baylor Lady Bears for supremacy in women’s college basketball in 2012-13.
UConn, 33-5 in 2011-12, returns four starters from a squad that reached the Final Four for the fifth straight year and 13th time (second most ever) in school history. The Huskies have won 30 or more games seven straight years and 17 times in the last 19 years under head coach Geno Auriemma.
Auriemma, one of the best coaches of all-time, won his 800th career game on March 6, 2012 against Notre Dame in the Big East championship game. The Big East Tournament title was the Huskies fifth straight and their 18th overall. Auriemma, in his 28th season with the team, has a produced an 804-129 (.862) record and won seven national titles. He was inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Auriemma, a defensive oriented coach, will count on 6-5 junior center Stefanie Dolson, 5-7 junior guard Bria Hartley and 6-0 sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to produce offense for the Huskies. Mosqueda-Lewis, scored in double-figures 32 times, led the Huskies with 15 points a game last season. She also pulled down 5.4 rebounds a game and shot 38.4% from the three-point line. Hartley averaged 14 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 46.5% from the floor. Dolson averaged 10.4 points and hauled in a team-high 6 boards a game. She also shot 58.6% from the field and blocked a team high 57 shots. Mosqueda-Lewis, Hartley and Dolson were named to the 2012-13 preseason “Wade Watch” list by the WBCA.
UConn brought in the number one 2012 recruiting class according to ESPN HoopGurlz. The three women recruiting class includes 6-4 forward Breanna Stewart, 5-7 guard Moriah Jefferson and 6-2 forward Morgan Tuck. Stewart, the number one ranked prospect by HoopGurlz, was named the National High School Player of the Year by several outlets last year. She received the Naismith Trophy as the top girls basketball player and was named the USA Female Player of the Year in 2011-12. Jefferson, the number two rated prospect by HoopGurlz, and Tuck, the sixth rated prospect by HoopGurlz, were named McDonald’s All-American last year.
Auriemma will likely use a three guard system this year and will likely have 5-10 senior Caroline Doty and 5-11 senior Kelly Faris join Hartley in the starting lineup. Hartley is an excellent shooter though she struggled from long distance (33.2%) in 2011-12. She is also very quick and a stout defender. The athletic Doty is the Huskies’ emotional leader and a good three-point shooter. Faris is an excellent one-on-one defender and a good three-point shooter. She led the Huskies in assists (4.3 per game) last year. Faris, Doty and Hartley can play multiple backcourt positions including point guard.
Jefferson and 5-9 sophomore guard Brianna Banks along with Mosqueda-Lewis will provide backcourt depth for the Huskies. Jefferson is an athletic and quick point guard. She also possesses excellent one-on-one skills and is a good defender. Banks, a defensive-minded player, is excellent in transition. She is also a good shooter though she struggled from long-distance last year shooting just 12.5%.
Dolson and Mosqueda-Lewis will be a handful for opposing defenders. Dolson excels around the basket on both ends of the court. She has a soft touch around the rim and is a very good shot blocker. Mosqueda- Lewis, the Big East Conference’s Freshman and Sixth Man of the Year, can play inside and on the perimeter. She is an excellent shooter and a very good passer.
6-3 sophomore Kiah Stokes, 6-3 senior forward/center Heather Buck along with Stewart and Tuck will be counted to contribute off the bench. Stokes, a 2011-12 Big East All-Rookie selection, has great physical tools and runs the floor well. She is also a very good rebounder. The versatile Stewart is expected to be a presence on the defensive end due to her size and shot blocking ability. Tuck is another low post option for the Huskies as she is solid on the boards. She is a good outlet passer and has the ability to knock down 12-15 foot jumpers on a consistent basis. Buck has seen little action throughout her career however she may be called upon more often this season. She is a big body and will provide another low post scoring option.
The Huskies have enough talent to challenge for the Big East championship as well as a national title in 2012-13. They also have a nice mix of youth and experience which should be good news for the future of the program.
As usual UConn will rely on their defense to stop opposing offenses as well as kick start their offense this year. Last season, the Huskies’ defense led the nation in points allowed (47 points a game). They also led the nation in shooting percentage against (30.3%) and was fifth in three-point defense (24.8%).
Offensively, UConn was second in the nation in shooting percentage (47.7%) and fifth in scoring (76.4 points per game) in 2011-12. The Huskies were a good three-point shooting team last year (35%), however, they lost their most accurate long distance shooter to graduation (Tiffany Hayes, 40.7%). Mosqueda-Lewis (92 three-pointers in 2011-12), Hartley (64 three-pointers) and Doty (35 three-pointers) are their most dangerous outside shooters.
The Huskies will face a number of tough opponents in 2011-12. UConn biggest challenges will come 11/18 at Texas A&M, 12/03 vs. Maryland in Hartford, 12/06 vs. Penn St. in Storrs, 12/29 at Stanford, 1/5 vs. Notre Dame in Storrs, 1/21 vs. Duke in Storrs, 2/18 vs. Baylor in Hartford and 3/4 versus Notre Dame in South Bend. They will also participate in the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge which will include a game on Dec. 1 against Ohio State at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.