NEW ORLEANS — After Breanna Stewart surpassed 1,000 rebounds last week at Tulsa, Geno Auriemma promised there would be more memorable moments in the career of his senior All-American. And as usual, Auriemma is correct.
On Wednesday against Tulane at Devlin Fieldhouse, Stewart, one of six UConn players with at least 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 points, needs just 16 points to pass Tina Charles (2,346) and move into second place among the program's career scorers, behind Maya Moore (3,036).
With as many as 18 games remaining in her career — if UConn reaches the American Athletic Conference title game and NCAA national championship game — Stewart would need 705 points (39.2 a game) to catch Moore. Stewart is averaging 19.5 this season. So second place is where she will stop.
"Whenever we recruit kids, I never think in terms of numbers, or what they will be able to accomplish statistically. I really don't," Auriemma said. "I'm just not wired that way. I don't look at things and make projections for a player. I don't. I try to measure [potential] in terms of what I believe they can do to help us win: Can this kid be a building block to help us win a national championship, can this kid be someone who over a period of four years help us do things? I think about whether we can get the player to reach a certain level.
"Numbers, whether points, rebounds, assists or steals, are just things that accumulate over a period of years. It's not anything I give any thought to because you just never know. I've been surprised both ways. We've had kids who I thought would come [to UConn] and be unbelievable stat-wise and weren't. And I have had kids come that turned into much more than I envisioned them to be."
Stewart, who scored more points in her first 10 games as a freshman (169) than any player in school history, came into the season 11th in scoring and has passed national players of the year Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters and Diana Taurasi on her way up the list. This season, she has 10 games with 20 points or more, but seven games came before New Year's Day, including her season high of 29 at DePaul on Dec. 2.
With the start of conference play, and the ensuing routs that have followed, Stewart's minutes have been cut back and her two 20-point games came back-to-back against Temple and Central Florida on Jan. 16 and 20.
"I don't think Stewie has exceeded her own expectations or mine for her," Auriemma said. "When you come out of high school with the kind of experiences she did, you know [great things] are a possibility. The things that she's done are a possibility and I'm not even talking about the statistics as much as the accomplishments [three national championships, two national player of the year awards]. … Whatever she does I'm like, 'Yeah, she should be able to do that.'"
As it was when approaching the rebounding milestone last week at Tulsa, Stewart's mind-set is one of awe and humility about where she is about to go.
"Something like this wasn't even on my radar," Stewart said. "I just came here to play basketball and become the best player I could be. To think that I will soon be ahead of Tina Charles in scoring is a big honor for me; she was so successful here.
"Records like this are very nice. But they are better [enjoyed] when you are older. All I can say is, you come here for four years and try to provide the same type of contributions every single game. And if you do, that's what happens. I am fortunate to have had that happen to me so far. It takes a lot of learning about how to become more aggressive offensively, realizing how teams will play you before the game even starts."
The Huskies (20-0, 10-0) come into this game on a major roll, especially defensively. They have forced at least 20 turnovers in six straight games, have held opponents to 107 points in their last three and are 52-0 in the history of conference play.
"We've been spending a lot more time on our defense," Moriah Jefferson said. "We've been trying to be aggressive, get ourselves more into the passing lanes. And once you take a team out of their rhythm [it gets easier]."
Jefferson is one steal behind Moore for third most in UConn history: Jefferson has 309, Moore had 310. Nykesha Sales leads at 447. Jefferson is tied with Bria Hartley with 559 assists for fifth in program history. Taurasi leads that category at 648.
After Wednesday's game, UConn will play East Carolina at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday before heading to South Carolina on Monday for the 1-2 matchup with the Gamecocks at Colonial Life Arena.
But Wednesday, against Tulane (15-6, 6-3), a spotlight will be on the impending milestone for one of the greatest players in the history of women's college basketball.