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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Offseason could be key for Huskies

When UConn takes the court for its next official practice in mid October, head coach Geno Auriemma figures to see a different group from the one which came within one defensive rebound away from reaching the national championship game.

Of course the arrival of the nation's top-ranked recruiting class as well as the departure of 1,800 point scorer Tiffany Hayes as well as today's news that sophomore forward Michala Johnson will be transferring is just part of the equation. Auriemma is meeting with all the returning players and hoping they use these next few months at continue to grow as basketball players.

"The meetings I am having with them right now are really, really good because they understand more of what I am talking about so in that sense it has really been good," Auriemma said on Tuesday following a press conference announcing plans for his restaurant to be opened as part of the Storrs Center development project. "If you look at it objectively, it would have been a crying shame for us to win (the national title this season). All year long I have been screaming and yelling about ‘we don’t do this; we don’t do that; we haven’t taken care of this; we throw the ball away at the worst possible times; we don’t rebound at the worst possible times.' We have a tendency to stand around and watch at the worst possible times and the next thing you know we are in position to win the game. It goes to show you how hard it is to win a national championship. In ‘95 everybody jumped up and down when that rebound came off the rim right into (Jen) Rizzotti’s hands. She goes coast to coast and we win the game. That rebound (at the end of the second half) landed right in (Notre Dame's Natalie) Novosel’s hands. She didn’t have to reach for it, she didn’t have to go get it. It landed right in her hands. If that rebound lands in anybody else’s hands the game is over. That is how close it is. If Kelly Faris makes the layup and them makes the free throw now it is a three-point game.

"(Rarely do) you go into the offseason where you think evertybody’s got everything covered. Every single player on the team I have been meeting with them the last couple of days and the rest of them today but every single one of them is looking to do something a little more than what they did last year. If you look at the way a lot of them played this year, if you look at where we were really good, where we struggled, you look at the guys who are upperclassmen it is easy to say that Kelly wants to get better. From where she was as a freshman to where she is now, she changed herself completely so what is the next step. Stefanie Dolson same thing, Bria Hartley the same thing, Kiah Stokes ... Are they going to be able to capitalize? Brianna Banks, Kaleena Lewis, you look at them all and say I don’t think any one of them as we went through the season maxed out on who they are. We could be looking at a group of players coming back next year that are not exactly the same as they were. Every one of them is going to be better. That is my goal for them."

As painful as it was watching the national championship game between Baylor and Notre Dame especially since he knows how close the Huskies were to playing Baylor for the national title, Auriemma did watch some of the game.
"I watched a little of it," Auriemma said. "You sit there and are really disappointed. You are disappointed (after the semifinals) but you are disappointed again. It is difficult. You watch how Notre Dame played in that game and every shot they took that didn't go in is going to go in against us. The situation was going to be so much different. That is the first time they ever played each other so I don’t think those guys understood how difficult it was going to be to score against Baylor, you are not going to be able to get in the lane and shoot all the layups you shoot against us or get to the free throw line as much as you do against us so I am not surprised at the outcome. I am surprised that it was wide a gap as it was."

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