STORRS -- UConn freshman Kia Nurse was playing in the second game of her career at Stanford on Nov. 17. It was her first game against a Top 10 opponent. Not to mention this game was played on the road on national television.
The two-point overtime loss to the Cardinal stung. Nurse was not immune to the pain. She took the loss as hard as some of the veterans.
Nurse was not pleased with her lack of aggressiveness offensively or her effort defensively. The days following this game were trying mentally.
"For me, even though I am a freshman I don't like to use that as an excuse,'' Nurse said. "I like to think I could've done something more. So in that sense I think it took me a little bit to get over it. It took me talking to some of the veterans on the team and listening to what they had to say.''
Nurse, a 6-foot guard, would not pass on the message delivered by the upperclassmen. But its contents made a lasting impression. Determined to right herself Sunday against Creighton at Gampel Pavilion, Nurse accomplished her goal.
She generated a season-high 22 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in her first career start as top-ranked UConn rolled to a 96-60 win.
"Kia was really, really disappointed after the Stanford game,'' UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I mean really, really disappointed. She felt like she contributed to the loss in some ways. And she did what great competitors do. They come back and put it behind them and use it as a motivator and play even better than what you would expect. I'm not surprised that she did that.''
Nurse finished with nine points (3-of-7 FG; 1-of-3 3-pointers) and three rebounds in 20 minutes against Stanford. She was forced to watch the final 7:12 from the bench after fouling out with 2:12 left in regulation.
Sunday Nurse, a starter for the Canadian National Team this off-season, had 12 points in the first half alone. And after going scoreless in eight minutes in the second half against the Cardinal (0-of-2- FG), she delivered 10 points (3-of-3 FG) in 15 minutes against Creighton.
"She bounced back and showed that she wants to do even more for this team,'' UConn junior Breanna Stewart said. "As she showed (Sunday), she can do an array of different things -- the fact that she was able to shoot the ball like that and just become another person who can really pick up the tempo and put ball pressure on the other team's guards.''
A point in the game that stood out for Auriemma was the spot-up 3-pointer that Nurse made while battling fatigue with 34.4 seconds remaining in the first half. She played 16 minutes in the half after logging no more than 21 in each of the first two games.
"She was absolutely exhausted,'' Auriemma said. "And I couldn't believe she shot it, and she knocked it in. She's a really, really tough kid. A really tough kid.''
Nurse finished the game 6-of-7 from the field, making all four of her 3-point attempts. Admittedly, shooting has not been a major part of her game. She said that she has been told she is more of a penetrating guard.
Nurse gave the Huskies a different look with her aggressiveness offensively. It was a performance she was looking for, and one that provided a significant boost to her confidence.
"I still think there's obviously things to improve as every game there's going to be,'' Nurse said. "But definitely I think I'm happier with where I am. I'm more confident in being aggressive and my shots.''
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