By John Altavilla, Hartford Courant
NEW YORK – The weather was as quintessential California as you could hope for on the final weekend before Christmas. Record-breaking warmth melted the snow in a city brimming with shoppers. And every Santa broke a sweat on their slushy city street corner.
But the warmth was a fleeting reminder of home for California against No. 1 UConn. That’s because Breanna Stewart provided it a season’s worth of chill.
UConn’s remarkable sophomore, in the midst of a scoreboard-busting run, tied her career-high with 29 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Huskies to a 80-47 win over the Golden Bears Sunday in the second game of the Maggie Dixon Classic doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.
Morgan Tuck, who was scoreless in nine minutes at Duke, bounced back with 12 points. Stefanie Dolson scored all her eight points in the second half. She added 11 rebounds.
And the last three points came from walk-on Tierney Lawlor, who sank a three for a lifetime of memories.
Brittany Boyd scored nine points for the Golden Bears (7-3). But she suffered through a miserable day, shooting 3 of 23 from the floor.
In her first game ever at the Garden, where the great ones always excel, Stewart immediately moved to center stage in an otherwise tough first half for the Huskies. She scored 21 points with eight rebounds while the many of her teammates struggled to just hold onto the ball.
She ended with her third consecutive double-double, her third of the season, and the seventh of her career. And it seemed almost effortless at times; a performance worthy of the venue.
Auriemma took her out of the game with 12:49 remaining, shortly after she missed a free throw that would have established a single-game career high for her. Her last 29-point was also on a big stage – UConn’s national semifinal win over Notre Dame on April 8.
Stewart has now scored at least 20 points six times this season. She is on a roll for a team rolling over everyone in its path.