Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis makes big impact in final game

TAMPA, Fla. -- If she had a choice, UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said she would prefer just to stay a college student forever. That isn't an option, but in her last moments wearing a UConn uniform on Tuesday in the Huskies' locker room, Mosqueda-Lewis wanted to make it last as long as she could.

"I'm going to miss just the atmosphere of being with my teammates," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "They've been my family ever since I got here. These past four years, they've been the people I've been leaning on."

Well, they've done some leaning on her, too. Mosqueda-Lewis, the California kid who had to adjust to the biting wind of Connecticut winters and the biting wit of coach Geno Auriemma, finished her career with a very strong performance in the national championship game. She scored 15 points and played all 40 minutes in the Huskies' 63-53 victory over Notre Dame.

Notre Dame was within six points -- 56-50 -- with just less than five minutes left. Then, Mosqueda-Lewis hit the backbreaker: a transition 3-pointer off an assist from Moriah Jefferson.

That was followed by a jump shot 50 seconds later by Mosqueda-Lewis. Then she finished off the Huskies' scoring on a layup with 2:37 left. UConn didn't score after that, but didn't need to.

"I thought that 3 that [Mosqueda-Lewis] hit in transition was critical," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We had just cut it to six. [The lead] went from six to 11, and that was the game."

Mosqueda-Lewis became the NCAA's all-time leader in 3-pointers during this NCAA tournament. With two more on Tuesday, she finished with 398. Long-range shooting accuracy is a skill she will take into the WNBA, but it's not all she can do.

"She's a great passer. She's a rebounder," UConn assistant coach Chris Dailey said. "She can shoot off the dribble. She's our best screener. She can do a lot of things. I think our players leave here understanding how hard you have to work, and they know what it takes to win."

The WNBA draft is Thursday, April 16. Mosqueda-Lewis has been discussed as a potential No. 1 pick, although the announcement this week that Minnesota center Amanda Zahui B. is leaving school early to turn pro moves her into that conversation.

Seattle has both the first and third picks, and Tulsa has the second selection. It seems rather likely Mosqueda-Lewis will end up in one of those cities.

"Not knowing where I'm going or whom I'm playing with kind of leaves me in the dark about it, but hopefully, my game translates well," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "Right now, I'm just going to celebrate and soak this in. But I'm excited to go to the next level. I'm excited to see what new things are in store for me."

Mosqueda-Lewis leaves UConn with three NCAA titles. Other UConn graduates who won a lot in college have been pretty successful getting championships in the WNBA, too, including the likes of Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. How Mosqueda-Lewis fares as a professional remains to be seen, but she has a great pedigree coming out of Storrs, Connecticut.

And she will always have a wonderful memory of her final minutes on a college court. When there were key shots that UConn really needed to be made Tuesday to close the deal on the program's 10th national championship, Mosqueda-Lewis made them.

"And that's the way she's supposed to go out," Auriemma said, "because she made a big difference all year and throughout her career."