The News-Times

Huskies homed in

UConn focused on Auburn amid sights and sounds of Bahamas

- By Mike Anthony

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — The UConn men and members of seven other college basketball teams went about getting their bearings at the massive Atlantis resort Tuesday, filing past each other in hotel lobbies, walking past aquariums and swimming pools — all part of the unique setting for a tournament of great basketball value.

It was a day of transition, with UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma hitting the golf course and many of his players swimming with dolphins, their work here having come and gone. There’s a flight to board Wednesday.

Dan Hurley and his players, who arrived Monday night, are at the outset of their Thanksgivi­ng week basketball grind. The 22nd ranked Huskies face No. 19 Auburn Wednesday at Imperial Arena, the first of three games in three days. UConn is 4-0 and feeling pretty good about what it has accomplish­ed thus far against overmatche­d teams that it should, and did, beat handily.

Now they the first significan­t challenges and opportunit­ies of the 2021-22 season.

“These games are important in terms of what you’re trying to do long term in learning about your team, and knowing where your blind spots are,” Hurley said. “The level of competitio­n is going to rise significan­tly here. And the areas where we need to improve will be exposed this weekend. And then we’ll play like 22 more games like these when we get back to the states — 20 Big East games, and then two more high-major type of games against West Virginia and (St. Bonaventur­e).”

The season has begun in earnest, is the feel now. No more ramp-up. No more easing into anything. In Auburn (3-0), UConn faces a team that feels it is equally talented, equally tough, equally athletic. The winner plays the winner of Michigan State and Loyola Chicago on Thursday.

“These guys have a little bit of free time, maybe could add a couple of water slides or something, go around the lazy river,” Hurley said. “And then we’ll lock back in.”

Said point guard R.J. Cole: “We come in 4-0 and riding the momentum we created. Now we get a

we’re still wearing masks. It makes no sense, but we’ll see how this all plays out, I guess.”

Ridgefield girls coach Rob Coloney said he is just happy to be back to practice beginning Monday and realizes, like most people, that the student-athletes have persevered through a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ll tell you this: Ten years from now I’ll be the first person to hire any student-athlete who has gone through the last few years, as their ability to adjust and persist through adversity will more than adequately prepare them for life and work beyond sports,” Colony said.

Ridgefield boys coach Andrew McClellan did see the positive that there is no limit to travel to and from games, and that a state tournament is scheduled to be played, which would be the case for the first time since March 2019.

“The most disappoint­ing part is that if we give some people 30 days to get the

vaccine before the season starts, to me, people have had plenty of time to get the vaccine,” McClellan said. “It’s going to be a lot harder (for athletes) to buy into wearing masks appropriat­ely now.”

No matter what ends up happening next month or early in 2022, individual school districts have the right to institute their own COVID protocols.

 ?? Paul Connors / Associated Press ?? UConn’s Adama Sanogo drives to the basket against Long Island on Nov. 17 in Storrs.
Paul Connors / Associated Press UConn’s Adama Sanogo drives to the basket against Long Island on Nov. 17 in Storrs.
 ?? Brian A. Pounds / Hearst CT Media ?? Kolbe Cathedral boys basketball coach John Pfohl.
Brian A. Pounds / Hearst CT Media Kolbe Cathedral boys basketball coach John Pfohl.

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