Greenwich Time

UConn ready to move forward from historic loss

- By Maggie Vanoni STAFF WRITER

The UConn women’s basketball team suffered one of its most historic losses Wednesday.

Marquette snapped the program’s nearly 30-year streak without back-toback losses as the Huskies looked completely fatigued for the first time all season.

While we may never see a streak like that in sports ever again, a loss is just a loss — especially in the regular season.

The Huskies have already moved past it. Sure, it was disappoint­ing and upsetting in the moment, but they know the only thing they can do is move forward. And with their next game at Georgetown on Saturday (5 p.m./SNY), that’s exactly what they’ve done.

“I think there’s always two ways to go about this, it’s either gonna break you this time of the season or, you know, you come over this hurdle and find a way to win and keep winning,” Dorka Juhász said Friday morning over Zoom. “... And we’re looking forward to that. It’s obviously not the end of the world. We have another game and so many other games left. So, you know, we’re going to prepare for Georgetown and find a way to win. I think that’s just kind of our slogan for the year right now.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma called Wednesday’s loss a complete “mental shutdown.” A combinatio­n of a limited bench, leftover emotions coming off Sunday’s loss to No. 1 South Carolina and an already taxing season allowed fatigue to get the best of his players as they scored a season-low 52 points.

On Friday, Auriemma told the media he’s never seen this type of fatigue from any of his teams in the past.

“We’ve never been in this situation,” he said. “There’s been times when for whatever reason we were limited in how many (players) but the combinatio­n of that and having to work so hard because, you know, we don’t have any scoring coming off the bench. You know, all those geniuses that say, ‘Play your bench more.’ We have to score points, and we don’t have any scores on the bench.

“In my 30-some years here in Connecticu­t, we always had one or two kids coming off the bench and they just score points. … But we don’t have that. So there’s tremendous pressure on having to make (shots) and then add that in the fact that we don’t have enough ball handlers. And the ball’s flying all over the place. So it’s a weird combinatio­n that popped up the other day and obviously,

you think about that wasn’t there Sunday.”

The Huskies’ lack of depth came to a head against the Golden Eagles as the team has played six straight games with just eight available players.

Caroline Ducharme (concussion) will likely be the next injured player to return, however; Auriemma doesn’t think she’ll be available for Saturday’s game even though she told him that she’s “really close.”

But after four of his starters played 38 minutes or more in a physical game against the Gamecocks three days prior, their bodies were worn out. And that only led to mental fatigue on Wednesday.

“We’re in tremendous shape, physically, and conditioni­ng-wise,” Auriemma said. “You know, that’s never worried me; whether or not we were, you know, conditione­d well enough. But I just think it’s human nature. You know, at some point it’s going to take its toll. There’s no way around it. And you don’t separate the two (fatigues). You know, you’re mentally tired. You’re physically tired. Physically, you’re tired. Mentally, you’re not sharp.”

But with only six more games left of the regular season, the team’s only option is to learn and move on.

Rest days, completely off from basketball-related activities, have become priority. Practices are shorter and recovery is vital. During games, the Huskies understand they don’t have the depth to risk fouling out or to continuall­y get beat up in the post. So, they know they have to be able to move their offense to the outside and make 3-pointers to reduce the stress on their bodies and limit turnovers.

“It’s been a very challengin­g, you know, physically, mentally, emotionall­y season for I think every single one of us,” Juhász said. “I thought last year was, like one of the hardest seasons, but I felt like this year is even more challengin­g just because, you know, the load that we have to take sometimes and just playing so many games. But I think this is a great way to kind of learn about your character.

“I think this season really reveals like, how tough we are and how gritty (we are), how much grit we have as a team and just we always, you know, live it out on the court. Sometimes you come up short, but it’s definitely like a learning process for all of us.”

Added Nika Mühl: “I have no doubt in this team, even after a loss like this. … It’s only up from here.”

With moving forward, comes the understand­ing that streaks break and that’s normal. The Huskies instead choose to feel grateful about being a part of something bigger than any impressive streak or stat.

“I don’t think we really thought about losing two back-to-back games until obviously after the game and we saw it everywhere,” Juhász said. “I think it was just like an insane moment to see, like, how successful this program has been and just being a part of that. I think we all reflect it as like, we’re so grateful to be in a program that is just so successful. I mean, think about it, it’s been 30 years not two back-to-back losses, you know, like it’s just insane.

“And obviously, I don’t think we ever play the game to be afraid to not to lose it, to have that record being broken. I mean, I think most of us didn’t even pay attention to that record ever . ... And I think that’s how we should look at it and not just have any type of feeling about, you know, that it happened with us. It’s amazing. I’m just being grateful to be a part of this, you know, historical team and program and just, you know, wearing a UConn jersey.”

 ?? Jessica Hill/Associated Press ?? UConn’s Paige Bueckers, center, reacts after UConn’s Lou Lopez-Senechal, left, hit a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter against South Carolina, Sunday, in Hartford.
Jessica Hill/Associated Press UConn’s Paige Bueckers, center, reacts after UConn’s Lou Lopez-Senechal, left, hit a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter against South Carolina, Sunday, in Hartford.

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