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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

UConn plays Small Ball in win

In the eyes of UConn coach Geno Auriemma, the best way of beating Villanova was to join them.

Two days before facing the Wildcats, Auriemma hoped that he would be able to use his 6-foot-5 sophomore center Stefanie Dolson as much as he does in a normal game. However, he openly wondered if that was going to be a realistic possibility considering how difficult it is for a post player to come out and guard a Villanova team that uses all five players as threats from the perimeter.

With 13:20 left in the first half he reluctantly went to Plan B. Auriemma went with a five-guard lineup and there was little arguing with the results as a 15-0 first-half run set the wheels in motion for a 72-49 victory.

"Villanova makes it very difficult on you to defend them because what they will do is take whatever big guy is the least mobile and make you come out on the perimeter and there is nothing you can do about that, that is how they are going to play," Auriemma said. "We were hoping that we would be able to have enough success that if we miss enough 3's that it didn't hurt us and still play our regular lineup.  They shot the ball really well from the 3-point line so it forced us to go in the other direction. I thought those kids did a great job when they came in, I felt like we really stepped up. The pressure had its desired effect. Villanova very rarely turns it over and they turned it over a lot today (23 turnovers). There was one stretch in 12 possessions where they had eight an that is where the game kind of got separated."

Senior Tiffany Hayes played a starring role with 22 points while Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 16.

"We worked on that some in practice this weekend," Hayes said. "It is just a faster pace for us. Although we are small, we have some strong guards who can post up in there - Kelly, me, Kaleena sometimes. I don't think it is a disadvantage for us because we can still moving the ball and have a post presence. I think it was a good look for us and we got a lot of steals."

If former Mercy High star Rachel Roberts had her way, she would have received a scholarship offer to play for UConn and would be realizing a lifelong dream. However, since the Huskies went in a different direction, the Marlborough native has no qualms about the cards she was dealt. She has emerged into a reliable offensive option in her junior season at Villanova.

"Every girl grows up dreaming of playing for Connecticut and I grew up 20 minutes (from UConn) and always wanted to be a Husky but  you grow up and I realize that I really can't compete with some of those girls so being here at this place is amazing for me, the academics and basketball is probably the best decision I've ever made," Roberts said. "Being from Connecticut, I know my grandparents were watching, my high school coach was watching, my mom and dad where watching. Just seeing Meghan (Culmo) out there doing the announcing (for CPTV), I grew up watching that, I grew up supporting the Huskies and I wish them all the best. Maybe if we see them in the NCAA tournament we will beat them but I wish them all the best. It is one of those programs,I hold it dear to my heart. I used to cry when they would lose but I am here now so I have to support the Wildcats."

Geno Auriemma couldn't use the word "frustrating" enough to describe UConn freshman Kiah Stokes.

Stokes did not get into Saturday's game and it wasn't because of the tough matchup for post players against Villanova but her continuing struggles to put forth the proper effort in practice.

Auriemma sees the potential in Stokes but has stressed to her that playing at UConn requires more energy and commitment to play at this level, He believes in Stokes and thinks she will "get it" but it is going to be a long process,


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