STORRS -- UConn 6-foot-5 junior center Stefanie Dolson walks around with a smile.
She loves to joke. She loves to have fun, no matter what she is doing.
Dolson's infectious, fun-loving personality is a direct example of just how high her confidence is at this point in her career. She put in the necessary work to get in the best shape of her life during the off-season and that has yielded positive results.
Heading into tonight's game against No. 15 Louisville at the XL Center (9; CBSSN), Dolson is enjoying the best season of her career. And she has been a major reason why the third-ranked Huskies have managed to overcome a rash of injuries.
"She just has a real positive outlook," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She has high expectations for herself. So she never walks around like `Woe, is me' or `Am I good enough?' She believes that all the hard work that she's done is going to pay off, and it is paying off. And it's just a great cycle that she's in right now.''
All-American Bria Hartley is listed as probable tonight for UConn (14-1, 2-1 Big East) after reinjuring her left ankle Saturday at Marquette. Star freshman Breanna Stewart is listed as doubtful due to a sprained left ankle that sidelined her at Marquette.
Dolson, who needs 24 points to become the 36th player in team history to reach 1,000 points, is averaging career-highs of 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 26.6 minutes this season. She is ranked third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding and assists.
Dolson has also had at least five assists in five games this season and has reached double figures in scoring in 12 games.
"I'd say I'm happy with where I'm at this point in the season,'' Dolson said. "My teammates have been doing a great job of getting me the ball. And because it's becoming such an emphasis of getting the ball on the inside more and I'm comfortable and more confident with what I'm doing inside, it should get better from here.''
Dolson said that one of her goals is to be recognized as one of the top centers in the country. At this point, UConn sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis believes that she has accomplished her goal.
"I think Stef's the best post player in the country," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I think she's smart. She's gotten herself in great shape where she's able to last a long time. I think she's gotten a lot better defensively. She hasn't really gotten in that much foul trouble in the games. So I honestly think that Stef is the best post player in the country right now.''
Better than Brittney Griner of Baylor, the reigning national Player of the Year who is averaging 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks this season?
"Stef's just not 7-foot, so yeah,'' Mosqueda-Lewis said.
One of the aspects of Dolson's game that has enhanced her production is her ability to play on the perimeter. Her mid-range jump shot has become one of her strengths. And it has made UConn more versatile offensively.
Dolson is shooting 59.9 percent from the field (2-of-7 3-pointers).
"She should be (comfortable) because she's a really good basketball player,'' Auriemma said. "Good basketball players are supposed to play anywhere out on the floor. The fact that Stefanie feels comfortable taking 3s, layups and anything in between says a lot about her. That just shows how much she's grown as a player.''
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