COLUMBUS, Ohio - Breanna Stewart admitted that she put herself in a potential difficult situation Monday by committing a pair of fouls she should not have.
But how the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's senior and the two-time national Player of the Year ended up on the bench midway through the third quarter of the top-ranked Huskies' 100-56 win over No. 7 Ohio State at Value City Arena left her and her coach a bit confused.
After a basket 3:09 into the second half by Ohio State's Shayla Cooper, Stewart and Buckeyes' redshirt freshman reserve Makayla Waterman hit the floor. Referee Tina Napier blew her whistle to stop play.
"My arm was locked up with hers and she fell to make me fall," Stewart said.
Napier discussed the play with fellow officials Sue Blauch and Tim Daley and decided to call a double foul, which was Stewart's fourth. Stewart nailed a 3-pointer on the Huskies' ensuing possession for a 59-32 lead before being replaced at the next dead ball.
Stewart believed the call was questionable. Geno Auriemma was asked if he thought that call would be made in a men's basketball game. Both were unhappy.
"They just got tied up and Stewie is trying to get out of the way," Auriemma said. "That's a no-call. That's a non-call. I said to the official, 'How can both of them be guilty?' A double foul is one guy hitting the other and the second guy hitting back. That's not what happened. It's a non-call, especially for a fourth foul. What if it had been a close game?"
Stewart eventually returned and finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and four blocked shots in 25 minutes. She also avoided a fifth foul making it 116 games in her career at UConn without a disqualification.
"I've never fouled out in a game," Stewart said with a smile. "It was close."
Wooden Award preseason list
Stewart, the 2015 Wooden Award winner as Player of the Year and a two-time Wooden All-American, was named to the Award preseason top 30 list on Tuesday. Also selected were Stewart's teammates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck.
South Carolina was the only other school with three players on the list as Alaina Coates, Tiffany Mitchell, and A'ja Wilson were chosen. Baylor (Nina Davis and Niya Johnson), Duke (Rebecca Greenwell and Azura Stevens), Florida State (Adut Bulgak and Leticia Romero), Maryland (Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough), Notre Dame (Lindsay Allen and Brianna Turner), Ohio State (Ameryst Alston and Kelsey Mitchell), and Texas A&M (Courtney Walker and Courtney Williams) had two players chosen.
Rounding out the list are Oregon's Jillian Alleyne, Northwestern's Nia Coffey, Tennessee's Diamond DeShields, West Virginia's Bria Holmes, George Washington's Jonquel Jones, Washington's Kelsey Plum, Michigan State's Aerial Powers, Stanford's Lili Thompson, Mississippi State's Victoria Vivians, and South Florida's Courtney Williams.
On Saturday, Auriemma said that Saniya Chong would not play due to a leg issue. She also missed the Huskies' two exhibition games.
But with 3:21 left, the junior guard came on to replace Jefferson. Auriemma admitted he was surprised that Chong was available.
"She went through shoot-around a little bit and all of a sudden it was if she feels good coming out of it she wants to play," Auriemma said. "I thought there was no way at all. Then I thought that I was not going to play her. She hasn't practiced in a week. So I gave her a choice, do you want to play a little bit. She said, yeah. Now we can get started with her when we get back. It was a pleasant surprise to me."
De'Janae Boykin (Achilles) and Natalie Butler (thumb) sat out. Auriemma is hopeful Boykin is back in action sooner than later. Butler is still on schedule to return in December.
The Huskies were a unanimous selection as the nation's top team in the USA Today coaches poll released Tuesday.
UConn remained No. 1 in the Associated Press poll that came out on Monday but it was not a unanimous decision. South Carolina, which defeated Ohio State 88-80 on its home floor in Columbia Friday night got the first-place vote of Seth Soffian, who writes for The News-Press of Fort Myers, Florida, and covers Florida Gulf Coast University.
"Everyone knows UConn is still going to be the team to beat," Soffian told the AP before Monday's game. "But the Huskies haven't played a game yet, and South Carolina beating an Ohio State team that's good enough to be a Final Four contender is impressive enough to warrant a No. 1 vote, at least for now."
Auriemma could not have cared less.
"It's OK. I kind of like that," he said. "It just means there's still someone out there we have to convince."
Monday wasn't a total disaster for Ohio State, which did announce the signing of Tori McCoy, a 6-4 senior center from Champaign, Illinois, to a letter of intent. She is ranked the No. 10 recruit in her class by ESPNHoopGurlz.
"It was the best news we got today," Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. "She's a great kid, a talented player, and adds to what I think is already a great class."
Valencia Myers, a 6-3 sophomore forward/center from Solon, Ohio, was at Monday's game here. She was a teammate of UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter on the United States U-16 team last June. Myers is ranked the No. 9 recruit in the Class of 2018 by ESPNHoopGurlz.
Meanwhile, Auriemma stayed behind Monday while his team went home and headed out Tuesday to see Lexi Gordon, a 5-11 junior wing from the Dallas area. Gordon is ranked the No. 34 recruit in the Class of 2017 by ESPNHoopGurlz.