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Behind Tuck and Jefferson, Huskies beat up on Tulsa, 98-60.

POSTED January 08, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

HARTFORD: So as initial meetings go, the UConn Huskies first introduction to the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes may have come off as a rude for the visitors from the fine state of Oklahoma but hey, welcome to what the rest of the country has had to deal with for decades.

After all, this is nothing new to most teams not named Notre Dame or Stanford or a handful of teams who have given the Huskies a run for their money at some point.

On a night when the temperature outside was dropping like a bad stock market day, the Huskies where about as hot as a team could be in the cozy confines of the XL Center.

UConn introduced themselves to the Golden Hurricanes with a dominating 98-60 score by throwing five players at them in double figures, led by the absolutely on fire Moriah Jefferson who led the way with 22 points and is averaging over 20 points per game in her last four in every way one could affect the ball going in the basket at any level.

It was also the night that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis tied Diana Taurasi’s school record at 318 when she connected at the 19:08 mark of the second half, much to the delight of the 8013 who braved the cold to see the senior bring herself to the lofty heights of Terousi. 

How important was it to the senior who finished with 11 points?

"It's super meaningful," Mosqueda-Lewis said, "I mean, I don't think I'll ever be at Diana's (Taurasi) level in anything but this so I'll take it. And I'll keep going because she can't come back and do anything about it!"

Nobody on planet earth is really expecting many teams in the American Athletic Conference to put up much of a fight against UConn this season but as is the norm around here, these teams play to a higher calling, a tougher standard.

Take freshman Gabby Williams, who had shown signs of her potential earlier this year but had not been seeing many minutes of late but came off the bench and made her presence known quickly and with authority.

The talented forward scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 21 minutes and got her coaches attention.

"We've kind of seen this before from Gabby, we saw a little bit of it in the UCLA game," Auriemma said. "It's not that she doesn't have the ability to do it. For a lot of these kids it's having the ability to sustain it over a period of time."

For her part, Williams chalked it up to a very common phenomenon that effects most first year players.

"I'm starting to get my confidence back, it was kind of a tough week for me last week," Williams said, "I just needed to play with more focus and energy. When you start to get tired after traveling and all that stuff, it kind of got to me."

The freshman wall is something almost all these players face at one time or another as they adapt to playing at the rigorous pace that Division I basketball brings with it.  

Just ask her teammate Moriah Jefferson who remembers her early days when she collided with that mental wall that brings everything to a halt.

"Oh yeah, I mean I hit it hard," Jefferson said, "I think everybody hits the freshman wall so it's just about realizing that you don't have a lot of pressure on you so you try and just make a play."

When the Huskies left New York City on Sunday after struggling to a 70-54 win over a pesky St John's team, Auriemma was looking for more energy from a unit, his bench that had not shown much against the Red Storm.

That entity certainly got a lot of minutes on Wednesday night, freshman Courtney Ekmark nailed a pair of three pointers, added a pair of assists and threw in a steal in 19 minutes.

Saniya Chong saw the court for 22-minutes while Kia Stokes, the one player off the bench who has been remarkably consistent, had her usual seven block, five rebound effort in the win. 

The three point record Mosqueda-Lewis was chasing had been something that you knew was coming eventually and the tie came tonight.

How did she manage to get herself to this point?

"I think those things are things that happen because you get a lot of opportunities and you play with a lot of great players," Auriemma said, "We share the ball so well, we have so many assists per game that if you are a great shooter and you come here, you’re going to get a lot of opportunities."

For her part, KML was happier with how her team came out against the Golden Hurricanes.

"We as starters just want to make sure we start every game as aggressive as we did today," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "And we want to make sure that our bench players are consistent so we know there will not be a drop off when we put them in."

The Huskies improve to 13-1 (3-0 in the AAC) while Tulsa falls to 6-8 (1-2 in the AAC).

UConn hits the road to play in Texas against SMU on Sunday before returning to Gampel (remember the place?) for only the second time in the regular season this year when they face Temple on Wednesday, January 14.

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