The Huskies can finally catch their collective breath. They completed a run of three straight games and four in five days Sunday with an 88-39 win over St. Bonaventure in the Hall of Fame Challenge. Overall, they have played eight games in 16 days to open the season.
Coach Geno Auriemma has given the players today and tomorrow off. And he fully expects that they will take the days to shut it down and relax.
“I don’t think they will be anywhere near the court,’’ Auriemma said. “It’s been a pretty tough stretch. The guys that can get home are all going home, and some of them are going with the guys that can get home. Some are just visiting friends or whatever. And then they’ll be back Wednesday. And I can’t envision any of them doing anything on the basketball court, which is good.’’
The Huskies lost Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (right elbow) and Morgan Tuck (right knee) to injury. They defeated then-No. 3 Stanford at home and then-No. 8 Maryland and then-No. 13 Penn State on the road by a combined 55 points in a seven-day stretch.
All-Americans Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley have played like All-Americans. Breanna Stewart has played like the soon-to-be All-American that she is. Moriah Jefferson has proven to be a far different player than she was last season. So too has Kiah Stokes, who has been the most pleasant surprise of all for UConn in the opening couple of weeks. With the exception of the game against Maryland, freshman Saniya Chong has played beyond her years. And Brianna Banks has bounced back nicely from a torn ACL in her right knee.
“It’s kind of like you know no matter what happens, somebody’s going to be there,’’ Jefferson said. “So if I’m not going to make a shot, I know Stewie’s going to make a shot. I know Stef is going to be there. Bria. It’s like endless opportunities. And then if you think about it, we don’t even have Kaleena and Morgan right now. So it’s like once we add those pieces I think we can’t go anywhere but up.
“Obviously, we still have a lot to work on. Don’t get me wrong, we’re nowhere near perfect. We’re nowhere near the goal where we want to be. So we still have a lot to work on. But to know we are playing this well without having two of our prime players it’s a good feeling.’’
The Huskies have five players averaging at least 10.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Four players are averaging at least 3.1 assists.
Collectively, UConn is averaging 88.2 points, 22.3 assists and 10.0 turnovers and shooting 52.9 percent from the field. Opponents are averaging 48.3 points on 31.3 percent shooting and 17.3 turnovers.
The Huskies do not play again until meeting Ohio State in the final game of the Hall of Fame Challenge Sunday at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, Mass.
“I think we really like where we are,’’ Dolson said. “This whole stretch has really taught us a lot about our team and the way we play. I think this break is really perfect timing to kind of rest our body, rest our minds and then come back on Wednesday ready to work in practice.’’
Dolson, Hartley, Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart are among 50 players that have been named to the Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List.