Geno Auriemma was determined to play All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis for as many minutes as he could Saturday against Rutgers. She had missed the last four games with mononucleosis. And this illness came after she had already missed eight games earlier this season with a nerve contusion in her right elbow.
With the postseason set to begin March 8 at Mohegan Sun Arena, Auriemma wants Mosqueda-Lewis to get in as work as possible. She played 27 minutes in a win over No. 24 Rutgers, generating seven points (3-of-10 FG; 1-of-7 3-pointers), three rebounds and three assists.
Of course, Auriemma’s postgame comments were laced with sarcasm before he told the media how he really felt about having Mosqueda-Lewis back on the floor for the Huskies.
“Our shooting percentage was really, really good and I think we had to put a little dent in it,’’ Auriemma said. “So it was good to have her out there. Nothing like throwing a 3-for-10 out there. We should tell her this isn’t baseball. You don’t get to the Hall of Fame by going 3-for-10. But, yeah, I think it was (UConn athletic director) Warde (Manuel), he goes, `So what do you think you’re going to get out of Kaleena today?’ I said, ‘What do you think I’m going to get? I’m going to start her and I hope I play her 40 minutes.’ He said, `No way, the first time she doesn’t make it up the court you’re going to take her out.’ I said, `No I’m not. I’m going to play her for as long as I can to get her back in game mode.’
“It’s not unlike golf. You can practice all you want, but you need to play in tournaments. And you need to play basketball to be in basketball shape. You need to play in games. And she looked good at times, and she looked not so good at times. But Monday (at No. 3 Louisville) she’ll play a lot better than she played (Sunday).’’
Mosqueda-Lewis came away from the game feeling well. There were things she did not like about her performance, but she hoped to come out and get into a rhythm with her teammates and make sure the chemistry was still there. And she did that.
“It was good,’’ Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I’m not tired. Nothing hurts. I’m just happy that I got to play on Senior Night with Bria (Hartley) and Stef (Dolson). It was good to be out there trying to find a rhythm. But just to be out there with the team and finally playing in a game was nice. I was (surprised to get 27 minutes). I’m glad he had faith to keep me in there and that he trusted me. So it feels nice.
“I had three turnovers so I’ve got to make sure that I’m not trying to overforce the ball in places where it’s not there. And I want to be little more active on the offensive and defensive boards. On the flipside of making a couple turnovers, I think I got the ball to the post players really well and defensively I think I did alright.’’
Mosqueda-Lewis had five points (2-of-5 FG; 1-of-4 3-pointers), two rebounds, one assist and one turnover in 17 minutes in the first half. She had two points (1-of-5; 0-of-3), one rebound, two assists and two turnovers in 10 minutes in the second half.
“I think she did a really good job,’’ Hartley said. “In practice, I definitely think she looked great. I think (Sunday) she kind of just missed a few shots. But I think she did other good things. She was getting in there and trying to rebound. She just has to get back into a flow with it, but I think it’s looking really positive for her.’’
Said sophomore Breanna Stewart: “I think that Kaleena played really well. It’s really good to have her back on the court. She’s someone you want to be out there playing with, and she’s helpful to our team.’’