WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - The Connecticut women's basketball program is no stranger to having some of the most dominant players in the country. From Maya Moore, to Rebecca Lobo, to Diana Taurasi, UConn has been home to some of the best scorers in women's college basketball history.
On Saturday afternoon against Hartford, freshman Breanna Stewart put herself in a special category amongst those aforementioned UConn greats.
In UConn's 102-45 win over Hartford (8-3), Stewart scored a career-high 27 points off the bench for No. 2 UConn (10-0). Through her first 10 games with the Huskies, Stewart has scored 169 points and that ranks first all-time among UConn freshmen in their first 10 games. Her total puts her ahead of Moore (165), the previous leader, and ahead of Lobo (143), who was present at the game. Stewart has five 20-plus scoring games, also the most all-time in UConn history for the first 10 games of a career.
"I'm going into the game, just trying to play my game and I'm not trying to force shots," Stewart said. "But if I'm open, I'm going to shoot it. I mean, what else are you supposed to do when you're open?"
Stewart added seven rebounds and two blocks to her 27 points.
"She takes a lot of shots and she makes a lot," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Guys who make a lot, shoot a lot, score a lot of points. That's what scorers do. They go into a game and they figure out how to score points and that's what she does."
UConn's offense flowed without much difficulty on Saturday, evident by the 102 points scored, the most for the Huskies in a single game this season and the second time they have eclipsed 100 points this season. The Huskies shot 62.3 percent from the field, 60 percent from three-point range, and had four players score in double figures.
"I like when we get open threes and they come out of the offense and we shoot them because I have a pretty good feeling they're going to go in," Auriemma said. "I expect that to be a big part of our offense for the rest of the year."
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis made it look effortless beyond the arc, making five of her six three-point attempts. She finished with 21 points, four assists and three rebounds.
"They don't take bad shots," Hartford coach Jennifer Rizzotti of UConn. "We can rotate, rotate and rotate, but they're just going to continue to pass, shot fake and penetrate until they get the shot that they want. That's a pretty hard team to play against because I don't know that I've ever played anybody that is that unselfish and has that ability to just pick apart defense."
Rizzotti, in her 14th year coaching at Hartford, is a former All-American point guard at UConn under Auriemma from 1992-96. Unfortunately for Rizzotti and the Hawks, they had to play without Amber Bepko, one of the teams' leading scorers, who hurt her ankle on Friday. The Hawks were led by Daphne Elliott, who had a team-high 10 points and an assist and a steal.
UConn will enjoy a short holiday break before traveling to take on No. 1 Stanford on Dec. 29.
Hartford held a special pre-game ceremony for the victims of the tragic shooting in Newtown. Players from both teams lined up on the baselines with young boys and girls who play recreational basketball in Newtown. The children gave each of the players a teddy bear, a special memento that Bria Hartley brought into the press conference with her. As the players stood with the children, a moment of silence was observed and a bell was rung 26 times, once for each victim.
"I thought the way the University of Hartford handled this today was spectacular," Auriemma said. "If you're going to pay tribute to some people, I can't imagine there would be a better way to do it then the university did it today. I'm really glad I was here for that."
"It means a lot, just to see them out here to enjoy the game," Bria Hartley said about the children at the ceremony. "I know they love watching us play and they really look up to us so it means a lot for us to go out there and play basketball for them."
"It's something that we don't really like talking about, but when we do talk about it, it definitely hits home for us," Elliot said. "I think it was amazing how honored them."