NEW ORLEANS — Cardinals coach Jeff Walz is familiar with both his potential opponents, having played against them in the Big East the past few years.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Walz said. “If we’re fortunate enough to win the first game I hope it goes 10 overtimes. It’s been an unbelievable three game series for those teams. Anything can happen. UConn’s playing real well right now, Breanna Stewart’s playing better.”
Stewart has really stepped up her play over the last month. She was the most heralded freshman coming into the season, but struggled through the middle part of the year. But ever since the Big East tournament she’s really been on a roll.
The 6-foot-4 budding star had 16 points in the loss to the Irish for the conference title and earned most outstanding player of the Bridgeport regional.
“I feel like I’m a player that’s being able to be relied on by my teammates,” Stewart said. “Right now, that’s what I want to be able to do. Throughout the season, there were times where I wasn’t able to completely say that my teammates were able to rely on me and I think now I would say that they are.”
Stewart’s play may be key with UConn junior center Stefanie Dolson still bothered by a stress fracture in her right ankle and an injured left foot, as well. Dolson practiced all week.
Stewart isn’t the only freshman that has become more reliable.
Speedy point guard Moriah Jefferson has been a defensive stopper and a new offensive option for the Huskies in the NCAA tournament. The 5-foot-7 guard had 10 points in 26 minutes against Maryland and 10 in 27 minutes against Kentucky.
“They are playing better now,” McGraw said of the UConn freshmen. “Playing like everyone expected them to do at the beginning of the year.”
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg