There had been only seven times that had seen UConn have two players with as many as 50 blocks in a season: 1993-94 (Rebecca Lobo 131; Kara Wolters 75), 1994-95 (Lobo 122; Wolters 94), 2001-02 (Asjha Jones 6 1; Jessica Moore 55); 2007-08 (Tina Charles 68; Maya Moore 59); 2008-09 (Charles 62; Moore 59), 2011-12 (Stefanie Dolson 57; Kiah Stokes 50); and 2012-13 (Breanna Stewart 74; Dolson 58). The Huskies had never before had three players reach this mark. Until now.
Dolson, Stewart and Stokes made history Wednesday when they became the first UConn trio to reach 50 blocks in a single season. Stokes made it official by blocking a shot by Mooriah Rowser with 10:12 remaining in an 83-49 win over Memphis at the XL Center.
“Three players with 50 or more blocks, that’s a nice little stat or achievement,’’ Stewart said. “At the same time, our guards are really being aggressive on the perimeter and making them come to us and take difficult shots.
“We’ve gotten better at taking more chances when the offensive players are shooting and going up and trying to block the shots. Sometimes, you jump too early, which I do sometimes. But that’s an exciting part of the game. I hope we continue doing it the rest of the season.’’
Stewart has a team-high 56 blocks through the first 20 games (2.8). Stokes has 51 in 19 games (2.7). Dolson has 50 in 20 games (2.5).
Aside from their respective skill, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said that the ability of Dolson, Stewart and Stokes to block as many shots as they have is also a byproduct of the pressure defense employed by the Huskies and the number of chances they take out on the perimeter in an effort to create a turnover.
“If you want to be a great team, you’ve got to be able to do one of two things,’’ Auriemma said. “Either when they pass it you have to steal it or when they shoot it you have to block their shot. If you can’t do one or both of those things it’s hard to be a great team. And we’re fortunate that we’re in a scenario right now where we can do a little bit of both of those things. When you throw it we can steal it and turn defense into offense, which is a double whammy. And if we don’t steal it and we block your shot it’s the same thing. There’s been times when I’ve been at Connecticut where we couldn’t do either of those things. We couldn’t steal it from you and we couldn’t block your shot. But we had Diana (Taurasi) so it didn’t matter what the (heck) we did.
“But I think this particular team right now has the ability to do both of those things and I think that’s probably … And we’re taking more chances and that’s why those guys are blocking more shots. So it’s all kind of related. When D and those guys were here we didn’t take any chances. We stood there, guarded you at the 3-point line. We didn’t let you dribble by us. So there was no chance to block any shots because we didn’t have a shot blocker. Now we’re running out there like crazy. Guys go by us … (swat, swat, swat). So those guys should thank me for their 50 blocked shots because we’re playing a defense that helps them. Not me so much.’’