HARTFORD -- UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma fueled a massive discussion last week regarding the potential of senior Kelly Faris earning All-America honors this season by labeling her performance against then-No. 4 Duke Jan. 21 "one for the ages.''
That was not Auriemma's intention. He was simply providing an honest opinion of what he witnessed that night in the wake of a big win over a quality opponent.
So Auriemma was not about to bite Tuesday when he was asked whether there was any question that 6-foot-5 junior center Stefanie Dolson and 6-foot sophomore Kaleen Mosqueda-Lewis have established themselves among the best players in the country. Not even after they had combined for 39 points in a 76-43 win over Villanova before 10,324 at the XL Center.
"When we put Kelly Faris on Mount Rushmore she hasn't played well since,'' Auriemma said. "So I think we need to slow down and make sure we don't carve out any more busts of any of our players.''
While Auriemma chose to stand his ground, the more and more Dolson and Mosqueda-Lewis take the floor for the third-ranked Huskies, the more and more they look like All-Americans. They are consistent. They are leaders. And their ability to make plays takes a considerable amount of pressure off of their teammates.
Dolson finished with 20 points (8-of-11 FG) and eight rebounds in 21 minutes against Villanova. Mosqueda-Lewis totaled 19 points (5-of-6 3-pointers), four rebounds and five assists in 24 minutes.
They were a combined 14-of-25 from the field.
"Me and Stef just try to be that rock for our team,'' Mosqueda-Lewis said. "So we're kind of just trying to play off of each other right now. Lately, it's just been all right. We've both been able to score points. We've both been able to rebound. So that's even better. So right now we're just trying to make sure that we're consistent all the time.''
Mosqueda-Lewis leads the Huskies in scoring (16.9) and is averaging 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 28.4 minutes in 19 games this season. Dolson is third on the team in scoring (13.8) and second in rebounds (6.7) and assists (3.3) in 26.6 minutes in 20 games.
They are accounting for 37.2 percent of the scoring for UConn. And they have each scored at least 20 points in three of the last six games
"I have a lot of confidence in Kaleena and Stefanie,'' UConn freshman Breanna Stewart said. "I know that they're both obviously great players. So it's great to play with them on the court. It just makes us go out and do what we do on the court and just play our own game.''
It is understood that their latest dynamic effort came against an overmatched Villanova team. But Dolson and Mosqueda-Lewis have carried the Huskies against the most prolific teams on the schedule, too.
Mosqueda-Lewis is averaging a team-high 16.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in eight games against ranked teams.
Dolson is second in scoring (12.9) in such games and first in rebounding (7.6).
They each had 17 points in UConn's lone loss of the season to Notre Dame Jan. 5. The bottom line is that for the most part this season, when UConn has needed them, Dolson and Mosqueda-Lewis have responded.
"Obviously, me and Stef are playing well right now,'' Mosqueda-Lewis said. "So we're really confident and we're just trying to do a good job of keeping it that way.''
There are bigger games to be played this season for the Huskies. But as they head into the final third of the regular season, knowing that they have Dolson and Mosqueda-Lewis leading the way gives them a great deal of confidence.
And if UConn's newest dynamic duo continues to play this way, they will both be All-Americans by season's end.
"What I want is for Kaleena to understand this is my role on my team and this is what I've got to do and if I shoot it every single time I touch it nobody on the team's going to be upset,'' Auriemma said. "And if I keep offensive rebounding the way I'm rebounding and if I keep playing the way I'm playing, then I have a chance to help this team win the games that we want to win.
"And Stefanie the same thing. I don't think there's any quarrels that I have with Stefanie in anything that she's done since the first day of practice. So if she can stay exactly the way she is and get better at some of the things that she's already good at ... I don't know that we could ask those two to do any more for us. And where that puts them nationally, I don't know. That's for other people I guess to decide other than me.''
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