Auriemma Faces Lineup Decision Heading Into Game Vs. Maryland

It is decision-time for Geno Auriemma and the rest of the UConn coaching staff. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis returned to practice Friday after missing one game with a concussion and is expected to play Monday when the Huskies host No. 11 Maryland in the Jimmy V Classic at the XL Center.

Auriemma will now have to shuffle the starting lineup for the first time this season. Bria Hartley came off the bench in her first three games back from a left ankle injury as Auriemma eased her back into the mix at the Paradise Jam Nov. 22-24. She then regained her starting role Wednesday against Colgate in the absence of Mosqueda-Lewis.

A starter will now have to come off the bench against Maryland.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know Bria Hartley’s going to start,’’ Auriemma said. “Not that it matters. She’s done a great coming off the bench. You never like to see a kid lose their anything because of an injury. And you say, `Well, if the season had started without her being injured would she have started? Absolutely.’ So now we’ve got to make a decision. I think in my mind we have six starters. We have six kids that all deserve to start. So the only thing that would affect any of them is starting. The minutes are not going to be affected one way or the other.’’

Hartley, Stefanie Dolson and Kelly Faris are locks to start. Mosqueda-Lewis seems like one too, especially after starting the first five games. The question is whether senior Caroline Doty or star freshman Breanna Stewart, who leads the Huskies in scoring (16.8) and rebounding (6.5), will now occupy a reserve role.

Looking at the numbers, one might think that Doty would be the one that sits. However, she has started 53 straight games and 98 of 99 in her career.

The only game Doty, who is averaging 5.2 points and 2.5 assists this season, did not start was on Senior Night against Georgetown Feb. 27, 2010. Meghan Gardler, Jacquie Fernandes and Kaili McLaren started that day as Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes and Doty came off the bench.

It appeared this week that Auriemma might be leaning toward keeping Doty in the starting lineup and sliding Stewart into the role of sixth-man. He has always liked having a game-changer coming off the bench.

“I think the way Caroline’s played and the stability that she brings … And I’ve always said Bria Hartley’s natural position is not point guard,’’ Auriemma said. “Caroline is one of the few players that have played this many years at Connecticut that has never come off the bench. Bria Hartley because she had to. Stefanie Dolson because she had to. But Kelly, Kaleena, going all the way back to Nykesha Sales (1994-95 through 1997-98). Caroline’s had a great career here, and except for her injuries has been in the starting lineup every day since Day 1. So it’s going to be interesting.’’