STORRS — By most accounts, this has been a most frustrating season for Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn's junior sharpshooter.
She hurt her elbow in November and missed eight games. She came down with mononucleosis in February and missed four more.
As a result, she missed more than she could ever have imagined after her All-American sophomore season. What a bummer.
But you know what they say about the postseason? It's a new season, ripe with challenges and opportunities to put the past behind you.
And that's what Mosqueda-Lewis did on Tuesday. In fact, she did something that's been done just 14 times in NCAA Tournament history by recording a triple-double to help the Huskies to their 91-52 win over St. Joseph's in the second round before just 4,245 at Gampel Pavilion.
Mosqueda-Lewis was one of five UConn players to score double figures with 20 points. But she added a career-high 10 assists and 10 rebounds to cap off the second triple-double of the season for the team.
"The coaches have been telling me that I need to be more of a complete player," said Mosqueda-Lewis, who had three three-pointers and six offensive rebounds. "I think they are definitely right."
Not only were the assists a career-high, they were the most for a UConn player in an NCAA tournament since Sue Bird's 11 against Old Dominion in 2002.
"I would venture to say that the only one who doesn't realize what the expectation level is for Kaleena is herself," Geno Auriemma said. "Nothing she does surprises us. So when we see her play the way she did [Tuesday], well, we already know she is someone capable of doing more than make shots. … I was probably as happy as I've ever been in an NCAA Tournament game to see the way she played."
Stefanie Dolson had a triple-double earlier this season against Oregon. But until then, UConn had not had one since Laura Lishness in the Big East tournament final against Providence at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, N.J. on March 5, 1989.
UConn's 42nd straight win sends it to the Lincoln [Neb.] regional for a meeting Saturday with BYU, the surprise No. 12 seed, which upset No. 4 Nebraska in Monday's second round. The Huskies are four wins away from a record ninth national championship.
"Who is going to beat them? That's an interesting question," St. Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said. "If you take one thing away from them, they are going to have an answer."
Perhaps five of them.
Dolson, who tied Renee Montgomery's program record with her 149th start, scored 17 points and had six rebounds in the final home game of her career. She has passed Jamelle Elliott into fourth place all-time in program history in rebounds.
Breanna Stewart led UConn with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Bria Hartley scored 20 points in her last Gampel game and now needs just 52 to reach 2,000. And Moriah Jefferson added 11 points and five rebounds.
The Hawks (23-10), who also had four players score double figures, were led by Erin Shields (12 points). They advanced to the second-round with a 10-point win over No. 8 Georgia on Sunday. But they were out of this one in quick fashion.
"At the end of the day, we have no regrets," Shields said.
UConn scored the first 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers by Jefferson and Mosqueda-Lewis in the fun. Sarah Fairbanks finally scored for the Hawks with 17:22 to play in the half, but it was pretty much done by then.
The Huskies ended the lead to 22-8 on Hartley's three-pointer with 12:46 remaining in the half and things see-sawed their way to halftime.
Of interest was the timeout Auriemma took with 18.8 seconds to play in the half, the Huskies already ahead, 50-26.
With the exception of the 35 minutes the Huskies have trailed in their first 36 games, this season has been one long master class in Final Four preparation. So Auriemma brought his team to the sideline and drew up a play that the Huskies might need in two weeks in the national championship game.
The play resulted in a turnover. The look on Auriemma's face was all you needed to see. And it was Jefferson, his error-free guard, whose ear he leaned into on the way to the locker room.
Other than that, it was a strong half. The Huskies shot 19-for-34, 5 of 10 from three. They doubled the Hawks off the boards, getting four offensive rebounds from Mosqueda-Lewis, who led them with 13 first-half points.
"Yes, that was me getting those rebounds," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "But I am probably more happy with the assists. I didn't think I could get those."
The defensive side was just as precise. The Hawks were 10-for-34 in the first half, 22 of 63 in the game. Their offense, at times, seemed to be epitomized by the efforts of Shields, the daughter of Renie Shields, who Auriemma coached at St. Joe's while an assistant in the late 1970s.
Shields was 4-for-11 from three, most taken from long range, the only spots on the floor seemingly free of UConn interference.
They were long shots in a task that was a long shot. And they fell short.Copyright © 2015, RedEye