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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Geno will take different approach on next European trip

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma loved the idea that he was able to conduct 10 practices in Connecticut before heading over to Italy to play four games last month.

However, the level of competition left a little to be desired especially after two scheduled opponents had to pull out of scheduled contests with the Huskies.

"That was a big downside, the fact that the competition wasn't as good as we hoped it would be," Auriemma said. "We knew we were taking a chance when we go at this time of the year. A lot of kids are playing in the WNBA or teams are just getting started so that part of it wasn't all that it could have been. The other part, getting a chance to practice, getting a chance to teach them during the games, I think it will help us going forward. Now we have to make sure it doesn't get lost and it kind of sticks with them a little bit. It was interesting to see.

"I am happy we did it, for sure. The next trip we take of this kind, we have to identify the teams first and then decide where are are going to go instead of (vice versa)."

UConn opened up by beating the Netherlands national team and an Italian Select squad, as scheduled. But when the Saarlouis Royals bailed, an overmatched TDT Slammers team filled in and promptly lost 112-36. When the Nigerian national team had some red tape preventing it from coming into Italy, the tour ended with UConn playing the TDT Slammers for a quarter and then Castellanza for three quarters. The result was a predictable 116-33 win by the Huskies.

UConn's top returning players made their presence felt in the four games but so did the three freshmen.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was UConn's leader with 67 points and 14 3-pointers in the four games. She also averaged 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3 steals per game. Banks was the freshman to get the starting call and she averaged 9.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals a game while Stokes averaged 7.5 points on 13 of 19 shooting, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

"Freshmen are freshmen," Auriemma said. "Brianna Banks did what I thought she would do. She struggled with things I thought she'd struggle with. She is going to be a factor. Kaleena obviously comes here with the reputation that she is going to score and make shots and she did that and she did a couple of other things to make you think she is not going to come out here and just shoot the ball. Kiah Stokes had her moments. She looked great. She had nine rebounds one night and after the second game I told her 'you are averaging 4.5 rebounds a game. You had nine the first night, none the second night (Stokes actually had four rebounds in the second game).' That is kind of what happens."

Auriemma raved about the rapid development of Hartley saying she has made remarkable progress from a year ago. Her shooting was a little off in the four games in Europe but she averaged 13 points per game while leading the Huskies with 29 assists and 13 steals.

"I think it was great to build our team chemistry for 10 days," Hartley said. "We get to play a lot and get to know what somebody is good at, their strengths and weaknesses and just play together to build that team chemistry so we know how to play together."

Hartley believed the freshmen will benefit greatly from getting an early introduction to the coaching of Auriemma and his staff.

"They got to play under coach's system for the first time so when they come back when the season starts, they won't be as nervous," Hartley said.

While UConn won't be able to take another trip overseas for four more years, Auriemma will be going back to Italy later this month.

Auriemma will run the U.S. national team training camp beginning on Sep. 26 and will return on Oct. 10 so he be back in plenty of time for the start of official practice at UConn. The camp will take place in Naples, Auriemma said and the U.S. will play tournaments in Spain and the Czech Republic. Look for the official details to be coming shortly.

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