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US women’s team defeats UConn in exhibition

HARTFORD, Conn. — Breanna Stewart laced up her sneakers that were dedicated to Kobe Bryant and his daughter and took the court for her first game in nine months after rupturing her right Achilles tendon.

She liked the results.

“The first step was getting out there and playing, Obviously there was going to be rust, but I was pretty happy,” she said after the U.S. women’s national team beat No. 4 UConn 79-64 on Monday night in an exhibition game. “The next step is to see how the leg feels in the morning and then at the next practice.”

Stewart scored three points in 17 minutes, hitting her first shot of the game. She, like many of the U.S. players, played with a heavy heart because of the death of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who died in a helicopter crash Sunday,

She had their names along with other victims of the crash on her shoes and the Huskies hung a jersey for Gianna on their bench at the XL Center.

The Bryants had become friends with coach Geno Auriemma and many of the former UConn players, including Stewart, who said Bryant was one of the first people to reach out to her when she got hurt in Europe in April.

“He knew what I was going through and wanted to assure me that I’d be OK,” she said.

UConn had flowers on its bench in front of a No. 2 jersey for Gianna, who Kobe had said was “hellbent” on attending the school. The coaching staffs wore gold and purple ribbons.

The Huskies led 56-54 early in the fourth quarter before Kelsey Plum scored eight straight points in a 10-0 run for the U.S. to give the Americans a cushion.

Stewart was one of five former Huskies on the U.S. rosters. She was joined by Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Katie Lou Samuelson and Diana Taurasi