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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Practice makes perfect

I can't tell you how many times people ask me how the UConn players stay focused as they routinely dispatch one team after another with remarkable ease.

I wish I had a video of Thursday's practice to show them because it would make things crystal clear. The Huskies had just won four games including three over top 10 teams in a span of a week and a half but there was no way their Hall of Fame coach was about to let them rest on their laurels.

After beating No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 6 Duke by 24 and 33 points in a three-day stretch, UConn coach Geno Auriemma gave his team two days off. When they returned for practice Thursday, it was time to get to work.

For all of his attributes, it is Auriemma's ability to challenge his team in practice which has always impressed me the most in the eight seasons I have covered his program. Thursday's practice was vintage Auriemma.

He had his team work on half-court offense with a couple of catches. First, Tina Charles would be on the sideline so there would be no security blanket in the post to throw the ball to and Maya Moore would only be in there sporadically. Second, the team could not start the process of getting an open shot until there were less than 15 seconds on the 30-second shot clock. The team struggled big time for the first half hour I watched and just when they started to figure it out, Auriemma would go to work. He would pull out Moore so there would be no Charles or Moore to save the day and when Caroline Doty began making a series of plays leading to easy baskets, she was sent to the sideline. The transformation I saw during the hour I watched practice was pretty remarkable and Auriemma was pleased with how the team dealt with the challenge he presented them.

"I was a little interested in seeing how that would look," Auriemma said. "I have been getting complaints about the games are too one-sided and I thought let me find a lineup here that evens the playing field a little bit. What ends up happening, we are a really good transition team I think, we can get the ball off the glass, steal it and get down the floor and get into our scoring mode as good as anybody, quicker than most. What I want to make sure that we also have is the ability in the half-court set, if we are in foul trouble, that we can execute stuff that I need executed. We can run some time off the clock if we have to.

"One of the dangers of scoring quickly is that is all you want to do now. It is almost like there is a time bomb in the ball that if you don't shoot it within 10 seconds after you get the ball, that the thing is going to blow up on you. I want them to understand that there are times when you may want to pass up a pretty good shot just because we want to and we want time to run off the clock. We are going to get a great shot in about two passes and this group of guards isn't mature enough to understand that yet."

Maybe not but Thursday's practice will go a long way towards Auriemma's message reaching them.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

During Thursday's practice when Tina was on the sidelines, was Heater getting most of the minutes with the starters or was it Kaili and Meghan. I hope it was Heather, but also understand why it needs to be Kaili.

1:35 PM 

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