After leading UConn to an unprecedented four straight titles and accumulating more accolades than you can count, Breanna Stewart wrapped her college career with no shortage of praise. Some of the most effusive came from Oregon State head coach Scott Reuck. Before his Beavers faced Stewart in the Final Four, Reuck said of Stewart, “I can’t imagine a more efficient player. I can’t imagine a more versatile player. I don’t know if there’s ever been one that can do what she does. … I think when you create a basketball player, you create her. The size and athleticism.”
Reuck’s comments were echoed across the basketball community, as scouts, GMs, coaches, and fans alike marveled at the myriad ways Stewart is able to impact the game. With her 6-foot-4 frame and 7-foot-1 wingspan, Stewart possesses plenty of size. Yet her athleticism and offensive skill set allow her to operate on the perimeter with ease.
After bursting onto the scene in the WNBA with a 23-point debut against the Sparks six weeks ago, Stewart has shown little difficulty adjusting to the professional level. Tuesday night, as the Storm took on the Dream on WatchESPN, Stewart had her best performance yet — a career-high 38-point masterpiece.
It was her fourth straight game with at least 20 points, bringing her four-game averages to an otherworldly 29.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.5 threes, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks on 68% shooting overall, 59% from the three-point line and 90% from the foul line.
The rundown on where Tuesday’s effort falls in history:
- Second-highest scoring game in Storm franchise history behind the 47 points from three-time MVP Lauren Jackson in 2007
- Tied with Mercury’s DeWanna Bonner for highest scoring output league-wide this season
- Third-highest scoring total by a rookie in WNBA history — behind Candace Parker’s 40 and Odyssey Sims’ 39 — and highest ever by a Storm rookie
… and this was Stewie’s 15th career game.
— Kimberly Veale (@kimberlyveale) June 29, 2016
Breanna Stewart's 38 points tonight were the second most in Storm history in a single game. (Lauren Jackson, 47, 7/24/07 at WAS).
— Kevin Pelton (@kpeltonWBB) June 29, 2016
Her efficiency was on full display Tuesday, as she needed just 16 shots from the field, knocking down 12 of them. So was her versatility, as she used her size and athleticism to score in every way imaginable, while also grabbing six rebounds, handing out three assists, swiping three steals. It was a truly virtuoso performance, as she put the Storm up for good with a tough and-one with 41.7 seconds remaining. With the win, the Storm, by virtue of tiebreakers, now hold the eighth and final playoff spot.
From the paint to the three-point line, out on the break and in the halfcourt, there was nowhere Stewie didn’t have success Tuesday. She even got to the line for 13 free throws, knocking down 11 of them.
Starting outside and working our way in, we’ll see Stewart knocked down three triples against the Dream. If there was one part of her game to point to as a weak spot, it would be her shooting from behind the arc. On the season, Stewart is hitting just 31 percent of her threes. Not an embarrassing mark, and one good enough for 26th in the league, but certainly something that can be improved upon.
Stewart may not be a sharpshooter, but she is more than capable of knocking down threes, especially when given the time and space afforded to her by the Dream.
First, she gets the kick out from Jenna O’Hea, and buries the shot after being left all alone in the corner.
Next, she finds herself open again after running a little pick-and-pop with Sue Bird.
For the night, Stewart finished 3-4 from deep, a second straight strong shooting performance after going 5-8 from three-point land on Friday against the Sun. If she has started to turn a corner with her long-distance shooting, opposing defenses may want to just throw in the towel now.
Stewart used that strong shooting early in the night to her advantage in the fourth quarter, as she showed her ability to score in the mid-range. Using a strong pump fake, she sends her defender skyward, creating plenty of space and time to dart sideways and pull up for an elbow jumper. Buckets.
And of course, Stewie can score in the paint and around the rim, which was where she did most of her damage on Tuesday.
First, a look at her scoring off a post move. After making a touch catch, she takes her time, resets, then ducks toward the middle for a bit of a hook.
Next, Stewart puts a large portion of her skill set to work, as she uses a quick deke on the outside, puts the ball on the floor and finishes with her left hand over the arriving help defender. Both her athleticism and length were apparent on this play, as she got past her initial defender, was adept enough to switch to her left hand, and long enough to finish over the defense.
Finally, we can see Stewart’s strength come into play. After fighting off her defender to gain control of the errant entry pass in the first place, Stewart goes strong to the rim, takes contact from multiple defenders, but still finishes for the and-one.
As a bonus, watch how Stewart runs the floor beautifully on this play, finishing the pass from Jewell Loyd with a simple layup. Despite being the Storm’s tallest player (at least until they signed Crystal Thomas on Monday), Stewart gets out on the break, filling the lanes like a guard with ease.
Oh, and her versatility isn’t limited to just scoring. Stewart can pass as well. Just check out this smooth bounce pass she slips through traffic to Alysha Clark for one of her three assists on the night.
As Scott Reuck knew, and the Atlanta Dream found out, sometimes there’s just no stopping Breanna Stewart. Tuesday night was one of those occasions, and given Stewart’s skills, there will be plenty more to come.