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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Huskies right back to work

The schedule makers didn't do UConn any favors having the Huskies play Villanova and North Carolina, who stylistically couldn't be more diverse, in a span of three days.

"This Saturday/Monday thing, there is just no way to get around it," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I think that is what our program is, we are a Monday afternoon or Monday night kind of program so if you want to take advantage of the opportunities you get (to be on national TV) you have to go Saturday/Monday and those are going to be Carolina, Oklahoma, Stanford, Baylor, Duke, it is going to be somebody that you are going to go 'oh Jesus.' The fact that it is Villanova and whoever on Monday, yeah you have to change gears pretty quickly. (Sunday) what we talked about will be completely different from what we talked about coming down here. But it is how you get better. You go into the NCAA tournament and you play somebody Saturday in a conference you haven't seen before and it is walk it up (the floor) and the next day you can play Oregon who is trying to get 120 so it is good preparation."
The Villanova game began a stretch of four games in eight days as the Huskies host Cincinnati on Thursday and then travel to Chicago for a Saturday game at DePaul.

"Four games in eight days, this will be a good week for us," Auriemma said. "I want to see how they come out of this. I am pretty happy with where we are right now but it starts to get pretty serious now, it's downhill. It's a bobsled from now until the end of March."

Among the topics Auriemma addressed after Saturday's win over Villanova was the agreement to extend the regular-season series with Baylor for two more years. The teams will play in Connecticut next season before squaring off in Waco, Texas the following season.

"I remember saying to Neal (Eskin, UConn's Senior Associate Director of Athletics/Special Projects & External Services) that these are the kinds of games you want to play in and these are the kinds of games that TV wants to put on television so what's the down side?" Auriemma said. "There really isn't (one). As long as you aren't worried about your record. Every coach has a different perspective on things. I am not worried about my record, if we win, we lose, I don't care. The bottom line is we are going to play the games I think are great to play in, great for our fans to watch, ones that my players get all excited about. Win or lose, who care? That game isn't going to keep you out of the NCAA tournament so I don't see any down side to it."

With my tongue plantled firmly in my cheek, I asked him if he pushed for the renewal so he could get another standing ovation from the Baylor fans as he did in last month's game?

"There are a lot of strong Americans down there, there is a lot of patriotism down there in Texas. If we come up third in the Olympics, there might not be a standing ovation. The Alamo might not be the only place where guys get killed. That might be part of a song 'Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Geno Auriemma hanging there with a Mexican lance through them.'"

Switching gears, Auriemma talked about the decision not to play freshman forward/center Kiah Stokes on Saturday and the process of getting Stokes to become a more impactful player in practice and during games.

"She is frustrating, so frustrating, just frustrating, it is the only thing I can tell you is that she is frustrating because she is really, really good," Auriemma said. "I am tying to instill in her what it takes to play at this level and I don't want to reward a mediocre and even less of an effort. 'This is what I did in high school, Coach.' Well it doesn't work here. You are too good, too talented and have too much potential. We are going to find out how bad you want this. I think she does."

Even four days after the fact, the biggest missed free throw of Rachel Roberts' career at Villanova still irked the former Mercy High star.

The Wildcats were leading Marquette by two points when Roberts was fouled with 3 seconds left. If she makes both shots, the game is over. However, the junior guard missed the front end of the one and one setting the stage for Katie Young to hit a 40-footer at the buzzer to give Marquette an improbable 51-50 win.

"I don't know if words can honestly describe what that felt like because I have been struggling from the free-throw line," Roberts said. "I got up there and said 'I can't miss this.' Instead of being the confident person I should have been, I was doubting myself. I knew the moment I missed it that there was something that was going to happen and this game isn't over. It really felt like someone put a dagger in my heart. My dad was saying that there is nothing that you can do about it."

Roberts was able to put it behind her as she led the Wildcats with 16 points in Saturday's loss to UConn. 

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