All-American Bria Hartley knows a thing or two about coming back from an injury. It was a year-long battle for her last season as she first dealt with a sprained left ankle and then a deflated sense of confidence.
Fellow All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis finds herself in a similar situation right now for the Huskies. She missed eight games with an elbow injury earlier this season and has not resembled an All-American for the majority of her time back on the court.
“My teammates are supporting me and I know that,’’ Mosqueda-Lewis said. “So that’s always going to help me out.’’
This week there have been signs of progress. And at Cincinnati Saturday Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 17 points (6-of-11 FG), two rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes.
She was much more active offensively, not settling for just standing around at the 3-point line waiting for a pass. Mosqueda-Lewis was 3-of-4 from 3-point range, but she also made two jumpers and a layup in attempting seven shots inside the 3-point arc. It was the second highest number of shots that she has attempted inside the arc in a game this season, taking nine at Temple last Tuesday.
“We’re just trying to move her as many places we can,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We’re just trying to get her more active, and the more we can do that the better for her, the better for us. It’s important for us that we get her to be the same all the time. She’s gotten off to great starts and then cooled off and she’s kind of started slow and then heated up a little bit. So we’re just trying to find her rhythm, that’s all.’’
Mosqueda-Lewis said that she felt better about herself following her performance against the Bearcats.
“I didn’t get as many things as I wanted done, but it was a lot better,’’ Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I feel like I’m getting into a better flow. I just have to keep moving, stay positive and make sure that I’m doing a lot of different things out there.’’
Said Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott, who recruited Mosqueda-Lewis while she was an assistant coach at UConn: “I enjoyed seeing Kaleena on the floor. The first time when we played them at their place after Christmas and we got her into foul trouble pretty early. This time she was on the floor a lot more. She was posting up. She was shooting the 3. She was doing some things defensively that I hadn’t seen her do before. So hopefully she’s getting back into better shape and feeling a little more comfortable out there. Obviously, I felt she played a lot better this time against us then she did the first time we played them at Gampel (Dec. 29).’’
Mosqueda-Lewis is averaging 17.5 points on 51.9 percent shooting (14-of-27 FG; 5-of-11 3-pointers), 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 27.0 minutes in the last two games. These represent her highest scoring two-game total of the season.
It is also the first time that Mosqueda-Lewis has scored in double figures in consecutive games since her first two games back from injury – 21 points at Duke Dec. 17 and 10 against California Dec. 22.
“I think it’s a struggle when you come back,’’ Hartley said. “It’s kind of hard, and at first the team’s gotten so used to playing without you so you kind of feel lost out there. So I really know where she’s coming from. But I think she’s done a really good job. I think she’s done better than I did coming back. I think my stretch was a lot longer. And she’s out there and you could see she’s scoring a lot more in these games. I think she has the right mindset now. She just has to be confident in herself and kind of not doubt herself when she’s out there. That’s kind of how I was.’’