It has been no secret that since the loss of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (right elbow) opponents have had the liberty of being able to sag into in the lane around 6-foot-5 center Stefanie Dolson. Mosqueda-Lewis led the nation in 3-point shooting percentage last season (.439) and made a team single-season record 118 3-pointers.
There is not another player on the roster that is as prolific of a shooter as Mosqueda-Lewis. Nevertheless, the Huskies needed to be more aggressive from the perimeter. And UConn coach Geno Auriemma challenged the guards prior to Saturday’s game against Monmouth to do just that.
“I think it’s going to be the theme, at least until Kaleena gets back, that people are going to just try to pack it into the lane as much as they can and kind of want us to shoot the ball from the perimeter,’’ Auriemma said. “And we can’t just rely on our transition game and our defense. We’ve got to make some shots.
“We’ve got pretty good shooters. It’s just a matter of focusing on what we’ve got to do and doing it. It’s not like we’re asking them to do something they’ve never done before. All those guys are all pretty good shooters. We’ve spent a lot of time on it, and I want them to take advantage of it.’’
Led by Brianna Banks and Moriah Jefferson, the Huskies answered the challenge. They were both 3-of-3 from 3-point range and UConn made a season-high 10 3-pointers on 18 attempts.
Banks wasted no time in jump-starting the perimeter game. She made her first 3-pointer nine seconds into the game and made her second 1:28 in.
“We definitely (took that to heart),’’ Banks said. “We just came out and figured that we are better shooters than what we have been so we came out and showed them.’’
Bria Hartley, who was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, made a 3-pointer less than three minutes into the game. Jefferson followed 79 seconds later as the Huskies made five 3-pointers in the opening 4:17.
UConn was 8-of-13 from 3-point range en route to building a 64-24 lead at halftime. The total attempts represented the most in the first half in five games without Mosqueda-Lewis. The Huskies had made a total of 10 3-pointers in the first half combined in the previous four games.
“Not from the 3-point line, I don’t think we have (been aggressive),’’ Jefferson said. “But at the same time you don’t want to over shoot it because we have three great post players. So if you’re open you want to shoot it, but otherwise you want to get them the ball.
“In games like these you want to work on things. And if you can get in a rhythm at any point in time, it doesn’t matter what game you start getting a rhythm in. That rhythm carries on from game to game. So I think this is a good start for us and hopefully we can continue that.’’