Sophomore Morgan Tuck has not looked like herself since returning from injury at Duke Dec. 17. She missed eight games after undergoing surgery on her right knee Nov. 12.
Tuck missed five games last season due to problems with the same knee. Still, that experience has not made it any easier dealing with injury a year later.
“I’ve been out before, and it just sucks being out,’’ Tuck said. “This injury sucked a little more because I was playing. I felt fine. I had pain, but then you have surgery and then you’re just out watching. And I think that was the worst part. And I know Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) would say the same thing is just not being able to go out there and help your team. You’re just sitting there on the sideline trying to cheer them on.’’
Tuck had scored a combined 16 points in the first four games of her return, with 12 coming against California at Madison Square Garden Dec. 22. A true indication of her struggles came at Central Florida Wednesday when she missed four layups in the first half during an 0-for-6 effort.
Tuck said she spent the last few days at practice and in shootaround focusing on making every shot. She came close today against Memphis when she looked much more like a player the Huskies can count on for production off the bench.
Tuck finished with eight points (4-of-7 FG), four rebounds, one block and one steal in 16 minutes.
“I’ve been really struggling lately,’’ Tuck said. “I still want to get better, but I think today was a good way to kind of get my confidence up and kind of show Coach (Geno Auriemma) … I feel like he should put me out on the floor, but I have to prove it and I haven’t proved these last couple games. So I think today was a good start.’’
Said Auriemma: “She’s struggled a little bit to get back into some kind of a routine. So it’s good to get some playing time under her belt. She wants to get it all back too quickly, probably. But I was happy for her today. I thought she did a great job.’’
Mosqueda-Lewis too made some progress today in her return after missing eight games due to a nerve contusion in her right elbow. She finished with a game-high 21 points (5-of-10 3-pointers), six rebounds and four assists. She also committed just one turnover in 30 minutes.
“You can see it happen to other people or see it happen to other teammates, but until you’re the person that’s going through it you don’t really realize how much mental toughness it takes for you to come back as the same player that you were before you got hurt,’’ Mosqueda-Lewis said. “It’s a good time for this to come. Trying to get an all-around game back and just trying to get confidence back and trying to get back into the flow of the way things were before I got hurt. So it’s definitely a good time to have a game like this.’’
Mosqueda-Lewis had 14 points and four rebounds in 17 minutes in the first half. In all today, she set personal highs in rebounds, assists (tie) and minutes played among the five games since her return.
“I think she’s been a little bit frustrated with not being able to play much and being on the bench with fouls,’’ Auriemma said. “And I think today it was important to her that she get off to a good start on the offensive end. And she was more aggressive at everything. More looking for opportunities to score, more looking to rebound the ball and get inside more, make a couple plays. It’s not easy coming back from not playing for five weeks, and little by little we’re starting to see the Kaleena we’re used to seeing.’’