Eleven months ago, Breanna Stewart was in the middle of her first slump. Her freshman season got off to a strong start but then came the rough patch, and one play against Baylor served as a microcosm of that experience.
Stewart came off the bench midway through the Bears-Huskies matchup last February and a botched assignment later, she found herself again sitting next to coach Geno Auriemma.
“She got completely lost and it wasn’t that difficult,” Auriemma said recently, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “At that point you could have asked Stewie what day it is today and what building is she in and she wouldn’t have gotten it right.”
UConn would go on to lose that game, and Stewart would only see the floor for seven minutes, but the experience had a lot to do with her turnaround last spring in time for a championship run, not to mention her otherworldly performance this season.
“Stewie helped Baylor a lot last year, so I don’t think it was all bad,” Auriemma said. “Kim Mulkey and Brooklyn Pope, I think those two guys appreciated Stewie’s efforts in the Baylor game last year. Us not so much, so it wasn’t a total wash.
“But those kinds of games really test you. They test who you are. When you play on national television and you’re that bad and everybody in America saw it, you have some soul searching to do. I don’t think it’s all bad.”
Stewart and her teammates will face No. 7 Baylor Monday night in Waco, Texas.
“After the Baylor game last year I was really frustrated, because I didn’t do anything,” Stewart said, via SNY.com. “I don’t even remember what the score was. But when it’s a close game like that you figure if I would have done something and been able to help the team in some way, maybe we would have won. That is the frustrating part of it.
“I think the next step after that was refocusing myself and thinking, ‘This game is over. Yeah, it stunk, but what can I do from now on?’"
And what Stewart has done since has bordered on the unreal. She was the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, and recently named the USA Basketball Player of the Year. He's averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds through 17 games this season and she's very much looking forward to a rematch with Baylor.
“I didn’t play well against Baylor. I didn’t really play that much at all," she said. "So I want to be able to bounce back or come back and just show how things have changed, how last year’s different from this year, and just go out there and really stay focused and be aggressive because they’re good team.”