Of course, if star UConn freshman Breanna Stewart had her way she would never hit the wall. She would play the entire season like she did the first 10 games when she established a team freshman record by scoring 169 points.
Stewart found out not too long after that stretch, though, that even she is susceptible to crashing into the Freshman Wall. The true test is how a player works to shed their spell of inconsistency and return to playing at an elite level. This is the test that Stewart has faced over the last couple of weeks, looking nothing but ordinary.
"She comes in as this All-American and everybody expects her to be this great player, the best player that's ever been through here," UConn senior Kelly Faris said. "And somebody that's a freshman in college that's a lot to live up to. So when you sit there and you hear this, that and the other, and even if you try not to hear any of it you're going to hear something. And then you start getting in your own head and you start doubting things."
Stewart officially crashed last week when she failed to produce a point, rebound or assist in seven minutes in a 76-70 loss to No. 1 Baylor.
With the end of the regular season rushing to its conclusion, Stewart knew the time had come for her to reacquaint herself with success. And to her credit, she has rallied.
Stewart took another step toward becoming the player the third-ranked Huskies can rely on Tuesday by generating 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists, four blocks and three steals in 25 minutes in a 76-36 win over Pittsburgh at the XL Center.
"I think that I'm, obviously, liking my performance a lot better," Stewart said. "I'm not sure if anything triggered it. I think it was just that I didn't want to be playing like that anymore and I just went and made the decision to go and change it. I just really wanted to start playing better."
Tuesday's performance makes it two straight games in which Stewart has put up some impressive numbers. She totaled 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes against Seton Hall Saturday.
I understand Seton Hall and Pittsburgh are not Baylor and No. 2 Notre Dame. But so much of what a player is able to accomplish on the floor is due to confidence. And these last two games have done wonders for Stewart's belief in herself.
"When we were playing and playing well with her in the lineup, she was doing a whole bunch of things," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
"And then when the game got away from her, she stopped being aggressive. And I think the last couple of games she's gotten more involved in more different places at both ends of the floor. I think she feels a lot better about herself now."
Auriemma says guard-play is paramount to UConn's ultimate success this season. It was the play of the guards that proved costly in losses to Notre Dame and Baylor.
However, there is no denying that when Stewart is playing at a high level this team is much, much more lethal.
The Huskies feed off her blocked shots. She is an added inside presence to assist Stefanie Dolson on the boards. And, at 6-foot-4, she is a match-up nightmare with her ability to score both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Frankly, when Stewart is at her best she can be the difference maker that helps UConn win the national championship in New Orleans.
"We need her to be inside and make sure that whenever she's in there no one's allowed to get an offensive rebound or a defensive rebound. No one's able to get a layup," UConn sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. "And with her body type she should be able to score whenever she wants on anybody that she wants. So as long as she's playing like that our team is going to be fine."
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