Breanna Stewart had five days off to allow her sprained left ankle to heal. She returned to practice Thursday.
Not only did Stewart return in better health physically, she returned in a better frame of mind mentally too.
“I think that’s the one thing I was taking out of not being able to practice was just really trying to re-focus myself and regroup and then come back out Thursday and have a really strong practice and get ready for the Syracuse game (Saturday),’’ Stewart said. “I’m feeling much better, and I think if I just stay in the right mindset and just stay how I am right now, I should be ready.
“I needed to be more aggressive and more confident I guess. I think I was kind of going through the motions at some point, and I just can’t let myself do that. I have always just make a play. Even if it is the wrong play, do something.’’
Stewart is averaging 8.8 points on 34.2 percent shooting from the field (0-for-7 3-pointers) over the last four games. These numbers are down from 16.9 points on 59.8 percent shooting from the field (10-of-26 3-pointers) through first 10 games when she became the highest scoring freshman in team history in this span.
Stewart did take a step forward at Georgetown Jan. 9 when she finished with 12 points (5-of-9 FG) and a season-high 13 rebounds in 20 minutes. She produced 10 points and eight rebounds in the second half against the Hoyas.
“I think coming out of the Georgetown game I felt much better, just because the few games before that I was struggling a little bit,’’ Stewart said. “In the second half of Georgetown I thought I was kind of getting things going and getting back into the flow of things. Then spraining my ankle didn’t really help so I just tried to refocus myself to how I was playing in the second half of the Georgetown game. I just wanted to keep that going. I think just really going and just playing and not really worrying about things I think really helped.’’
UConn coach Geno Auriemma has noticed a difference in Stewart the past two days at practice.
“I think it’s always good to take a deep breath, back off a little bit,’’ Auriemma said. “But I also think that being at practice is the best thing that helps you get better. And being in a slump is all part of playing. And, obviously, Stewie was in a little bit of a slump. And when they’re young or when they’re old it really doesn’t matter whether it’s a physical slump or a mental slump, it’s still a slump. And the best medicine sometimes is to just walk away from it for a little bit. So she’s looked really good in practice the last couple of days so I’m encouraged.’’
Here is what the Huskies had to say today about Stewart returning to the rotation …
“Our team is better when she’s out there,’’ sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. “She’s looked good. We’re just trying to get her more physical. We’ve been putting practice players on her and all of us when she gets the ball we’re slapping at her, pushing her, making sure she’s getting tough in there finishing. It’s pretty tough, especially when you come in as skinny as she did. You’re not used to that. Every little nudge just feels like a punch to her. (UConn Strength & Conditioning coach Amanda) Kimball’s trying to get her bigger in the weight room and tying to tell her to eat more protein. But she’s just going to have to get used to it over time.’’
“She’s making strides,’’ senior Kelly Faris said. “She’s a good presence to have on the court because she’s so tall and long that she can get deflections on defense and offensively as she gets more comfortable inside she’ll be able to do more. When she relaxes and just kind of plays that’s when all the good stuff starts to come out. So the last few days she’s kind of buckled down. There’s still mistakes here and there, but mentally I think she’s making strides.’’