Freshman Morgan Tuck has a built-in excuse for her drop-off in production. She has been bothered by a bone bruise in her right knee for weeks now. The ailment has cost her three games and valuable practice time.
Yet, Tuck does not want to have any part of any excuse. She is taking full responsibility for her drop-off in production.
“I don’t know necessarily if I think of that as the reason why I don’t get (a rebound),’’ Tuck said. “A lot of times I don’t think of it as my knee as the reason why I didn’t get it, it was just I should’ve got it. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. I don’t have an excuse for it, especially in games I don’t think of my knee at all. Whatever I do that’s just me not doing what I need to do.’’
Tuck started the season as one of UConn’s most productive reserves, averaging 10.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 19.5 minutes through the first six games. She scored in double figures twice in this span and had at least four rebounds and played at least 20 minutes in four games.
However, over her last nine games, Tuck is averaging 2.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 10.9 minutes. She has reached double figures in scoring once and twice has had at least four rebounds and played at least 20 minutes.
Tuck, who played just five minutes against No. 4 Duke Monday, has struggled with her confidence as the season has progressed.
“I think I lost that a little bit going on in the season,’’ Tuck said. “My confidence went down a little bit, but I’ve been talking to the coaches and my teammates and I have to have the same mindset. I can’t change just because I might be struggling right now. Everyone goes through their struggles and I just have to focus on getting out of mine.
“I think a lot of it you just have to sometimes grind it out. And I don’t know if there’s an exact answer or something to cure it, but I think it just comes with time here and just really focusing on making the most of my opportunity. I feel like if I can just get over the mental part then I’ll be fine.’’
Reaching full strength will undoubtedly prove beneficial for Tuck too. She said that having two days off this week helped her knee. The swelling has subsided. Still, she must see team athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle daily to determine whether or not she can practice.
Lately, Tuck has been a full participant in practice.
“I think I’m on the road to 100 percent,’’ Tuck said. “Definitely, recently it’s been feeling a lot better. So I’ve been in practice a lot more. So hopefully it just keeps healing and I won’t have to miss any more practices.’’
The next few weeks will prove to be important for Tuck and fellow post player Kiah Stokes, who has missed six games due to a stress reaction in her right shin. The Huskies are going to need to be able to rely on someone other than Stefanie Dolson inside.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said that he plans to get Tuck and Stokes “into the flow as much as possible.’’
“It’s been difficult on them because of the injuries,’’ Auriemma said. “They haven’t had a lot of time on the practice floor. And Morgan, being a freshman, it’s even more difficult. With Kiah on again off again, you’re never quite sure. I think they’re both fairly healthy that they’ll be able to start making some real progress now. And, obviously, you want to impress upon them that we’re a good team without them, but I don’t think we will be a great team unless they contribute. And that goes for the two of them, Breanna Stewart, Brianna Banks, Moriah Jefferson.
“If we just go with the four guys we had last year, they took us to the Final Four. Adding the guys that we’ve added, if they contribute the way I think they can we ought to be a much better team. But they need to be consistent in their contributions.’’