With Williams out, Stevens steps up for UConn women's basketball during AAC semifinals

Published on Tuesday, 6 March 2018 21:23
Written by Kyle Maher


MOHEGAN INDIAN RES. - UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma considers junior forward Azura Stevens a work in progress as she continues to adjust to what is expected of her in her first season on the court with the Huskies since transferring in from Duke following the 2015-16 season.

Stevens took another step forward in her maturation process Monday in the American Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals.

The AAC’s Sixth Man Award winner started in place of injured Gabby Williams (hip) and recorded game highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds as top-seeded UConn cruised to a 75-21 victory over No. 4 Cincinnati at Mohegan Sun Arena to advance to its fifth consecutive AAC final last night.

“I did not feel any extra pressure,” Stevens said. “I try to approach every game the same and do everything I can to help the team. My role changed a little bit tonight, but I was expected to do what I do every night. As a team we did a good job putting a good effort together and getting the win for Gabby.”

It was the ninth double-double and seventh game with 20 or more points this season for Stevens, who also delivered four blocks and two assists. The Raleigh, North Carolina native, who played a team-high 28 minutes, was 10-for-13 from the field and drained her ninth 3-pointer of the season on her only attempt.

“Z did a great job for us,” UConn guard Kia Nurse said. “She was back there blocking shots, her communication was good, and when her feet are moving like that and her hands are up and she’s contesting shots and deterring people from coming in there, it makes us all the better.”

Stevens finished with more field goals (10) than Cincinnati as a team (8) and matched the Bearcats’ point total.

“I did not foul anybody, so that was a positive from this game,” Stevens said. “It is a work in progress that I am focusing on every game so it feels good to have games like this where I don’t foul very much and make fewer mistakes on the defensive end.”

Keep on winning

“I have run out of ways to describe this stuff,” Auriemma said. “Today in the locker room I asked Kia and Gabby how many games they have lost in college and they told me two, and then I asked Katie Lou (Samuelson) how many games she had lost in college and she told me one. I told them most teams in America lose that

many in a week. It must not be easy to do since we are the only team doing it. There must be something that we are doing that is allowing us to put ourselves in that position to be successful. The reason I said it our team is that there are things you have to do to play for our team, and because we make you do those things we are in the position to be successful.”

Husky bites

UConn has never played the same opponent in four consecutive league tourney finals until last night against South Florida. The Huskies did face Providence (1989-91) and Notre Dame (2011-13) three straight times while in the Big East. … Samuelson had six assists and Napheesa Collier five Monday to reach 100 on the season, joining Dangerfield and Williams in triple figures. … Cincinnati won the fourth quarter 10-9. “One of our goals is to win a fourth quarter and we were close, so we’re making progress,” Auriemma said sarcastically. … Monday was the 29th anniversary of the Huskies’ first Big East Tournament title win, 84-65 over Providence at Seton Hall’s Walsh Gymnasium.

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Tuesday, 6 March 2018 21:23. Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2018 21:26.