UConn’s defense falling a bit short of team’s elevated standards
UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma spent most of Friday’s practice emphasizing defense, an aspect of the game the coach feels is not up to par. “This is one of those years where every single thing that is a positive with our team has a negative attached to it,” Auriemma said. “There isn’t anything that’s all this way or half positive, half neutral. It’s either a lot positive and a lot negative or some combination of those two things, so I’ve got to find a way to deal with that.” Sports,
Throwing his hands up in the air, Geno Auriemma let out a yell of frustration.
His team had just executed perfectly on defense, swatting the ball away and getting out in transition. Katie
Lou Samuelson launched a long pass to Megan
Walker, who bobbled the ball before having it stolen away in the paint.
The sounds coming from
Gampel Pavilion on Friday were that of a team that can play extremely good basketball, but also make simple mistakes. At various points, the gym erupted in cheers for a steal by Crystal Dangerfield or a block by Walker, almost always followed by a groan from Auriemma 10 minutes later when things stopped running smoothly.
It’s moments like this that Auriemma was talking about earlier in the week, describing UConn as incapable of doing one thing all good or all bad. It’s a season, he conceded, where the team can’t rely on one part of its game being perfect.
“This is one of those years where every single thing that is a positive with our team has a negative attached to it,” Auriemma said. “There isn’t anything that’s all this way or half positive, half neutral. It’s either a lot positive and a lot negative or some combination of those two things, so I’ve got to find a way to deal with that.”
In practice on Friday, the Huskies focused a lot on defense — something they didn’t have problems with against Cincinnati, but that hasn’t been their strong point this season. They played
Cincinnati – UConn plays at Cincinnati, continuing the rivalry that began when both schools were in the Big East. It has been an extremely competitive series, though Cincinnati has won the last five meetings, since the memorable four-OT UConn victory in the 2016 conference tournament, by an average margin of 15.4 points.
The Bearcats have been consistent winners under coach Mick Cronin (left) , with a new core of players always waiting to step in. This group is still finding itself, but at 13-3 is certainly on pace for a return to the NCAA Tournament. UConn, coming off a win over SMU, brings a little momentum. It’s a short turnaround for both teams, Cincinnati winning at Tulsa in OT on Thursday night. This is the Huskies’ first visit to the refurbished campus arena.
Fun fact: Cincinnati’s associate head coach, Darren Savino, played at St. Anthony’s High in Jersey City, where Bob Hurley Sr. was the coach, and Dan and Bobby Hurley his teammates in 1989.
Here’s all you need to know about the matchup: Site: Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati
Day/Time: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Series: Tied, 13-13
Last meeting: Cincinnati, 77-52, at Northern Kentucky, Feb. 22, 2018
TV: ESPN 2 (Mike Corey, Mark Wise)
Radio: UConn IMG Radio Network (Mike Crispino, Wayne Norman); 97.9 ESPN Hartford, WINE 940 AM, WGCH1490 AM, WICC 600 AM, WAVZ1300 AM, WXLM 980 AM, WATR1320 AM, WILI 1400 AM, 95.3 FM. Jarron Cumberland, G, 6-5, Jr.; Keith Williams, G, 6-5, So.; Tre Scott, F, 6-8, Jr.; Nysier Brooks, C, 6-11, Jr.; Justin Jenifer, G, 5-10, Sr.; Cane Broome, G, 6-0, Sr. Alterique Gilbert, G, 6-0, So.; Jalen Adams, G, 6-3, Sr.; Christian Vital, G, 6-2, Jr.; Tyler Polley, F, 6-8, So.; Josh Carlton, C, 6-9, So.; Tarin Smith, G, 6-3, GS. we defend and rebound the ball and don’t turn it over, we should have a chance in the second half, even against one of the better teams like Cincinnati.”
Looking back, and ahead, here are some takeaways:
Unlocking the possibilities
The idea that Jalen Adams and Alterique Gilbert could be the Huskies next great guard tandem, the new Shabazz Napier-Ryan Boatright, has been in the air for more than 21Ž2 years. The combination of Gilbert’s injuries and Adams’ recent struggles have delayed it. Both played well in a victory Thursday against a good opponent. The clock is ticking, but if they can make the most of their last two months together, it would be something worth watching.
On defense, no rest
The defense Hurley installed has been pretty consistent. When opponents have posted good shooting percentages, it has often been skewed by the number of live-ball turnovers and easy baskets. TheSMUgame was more representative. UConn had a good plan, to keep SMU’s best perimeter shooters, McMurray in particular, from getting unfettered looks. Smith and Gilbert helped keep McMurray, 5-for-18, 1-for-9 on threes, well below his averages. Sid Wilson came up with three blocks. The Huskies turned 10 turnovers into 13 points. SMU shot 34.8 percent, 3for-23 on threes – a good night for UConn defense.
Some hope up front
Josh Carlton, with eight points and seven rebounds, at last gave the Huskies a glimmer of production in the front court. Hurley called it his best game against a quality opponent and certainly it was. Carlton was 3-for-4 from the floor, one of several to make modest offensive contributions that added up to be just enough to complement the guards. SMU had to guard a few more players. …. Now, about rebounding: SMU 41, UConn 26.
Up next, Cincinnati
UConn has only one day to fly to Cincinnati and prepare for one of the toughest road games of the season, in the Bearcats’ new arena. Huskies teams have not won in Cincinnati since both teams were in the Big East. The Bearcats (13-3) were upset at East Carolina on Saturday, and went to OT to win at Tulsa on Thursday night, as East Hartford’s Cane Broome came off the bench to score 16, hitting a game-tying 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left in regulation. Jarron Cumberland is averaging 16.9 points for the defending conference champs.
“High-level dudes love getting on the road and trying to silence a big crowd,” Hurley said. “Hopefully, we’ve got some high-level dudes.”
Akok Akok was at the game, sitting behind the bench, as the details of his enrollment at UConn continue to be worked out. The target is for him to start classes Jan. 22 and join the team as a nonscholarship player, to practice and work with the Huskies. There are no plans for him to play this season. … Mamadou Diarra, who had knee surgery last July, stretched and warmed up with the team before the game Thursday, but he is not close to returning to action. … Freshman Brendan Adams did not get into the game for UConn. Hurley said he just “shortened the rotation” for SMU.
UConn women vs. USF Sunday: Gampel Pavilion, 1 p.m., ESPN
Coach Dan Hurley was pleased with UConn’s defense, which held SMU to 34.8 percent shooting Thursday.