Productive practice for Huskies
We were able to witness more than an hour of practice and it was time well spent. For all the attributes Auriemma receives praise for, I am not sure teaching the game is one of them. Anybody who was there Wednesday afternoon would have come away impressed with what they saw.
The first portion of the practice we were able to witness featured work on the half-court offense with the focus on ball movement. In some ways I think it was a good thing that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' quad contusion kept her out of these drills because there are times when they run an offensive set and one pass to Mosqueda-Lewis results in a 3-pointer. Without Mosqueda-Lewis out there, UConn needed to work even harder on offense.
On the first possession I witnessed some good inside-outside ball movement resulted in an open 3 for Caroline Doty which she promptly drained. The second one was a perfectly-executed high-low post offense with Kiah Stokes scoring off a sweet feed from Stefanie Dolson. Then it was Kelly Faris slashing to the basket for a layup. Then UConn's blue or starting team began to struggle a bit as Auriemma stressed the importance of setting and properly utilizing screens. After a few empty possessions, the starters once again got back into the flow. First it was Stokes returning the favor with a pass to Dolson in the low blocks before Bria Hartley blew by a male practice player for a layup and then Breanna Stewart hit a hook shot in the lane.
In the middle of this portion of practice Auriemma could be heard bellowing "good ball movement." But there was another time when an irritated Auriemma told his players "know who you are trying to get a shot for." With final exams coming up, these next couple of weeks are always a tough time for all the players to get together for spirited practices so Auriemma decided to put those 2 1/2 hours to good use.
Following practice I asked him about the focus on the ball movement during the practice.
"There is a huge plus to playing six or seven players because you know you are going to get good ball movement because there is a chemistry there that is easy to acquire and they just know each other really, really well so the ball moves, they know where it is going," Auriemma said. I watched our ball movement from last year (against Penn State) and I couldn't believe our ball movement because we didn't put anybody else in the game except the guys that knew how to play. That is the plus side. The negative side is we can't play like we want to play, the way I want us to play unless we get eight/nine minimum guys in the game. That ball movement when you play eight, nine (players) that gets crazy because now all of a sudden you have some bad combinations out there and you have some guys who just aren't quite sure what to do and they screw it up for everybody else. We spend a lot of time every day on trying to make sure our combinations are right, the younger guys and in with the right guys that we can help them out. Seven games into the season we are leading the country in assists and field goal percentage so we are getting there."
After spending all that time on getting his players to move more fluidly and with a greater sense of purpose on offense, it was time to prepare for tonight's test against Penn State.
One male practice player was asked to mimic Penn State's leading scorer Maggie Lucas and another assumed the role of point guard Alex Bentley and then the Huskies worked on their press. It was a pretty interesting give and take. Auriemma was down at one end of the court ready to pounce if the wrong pass was made available and UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey underneath the other basket coaching up the quintet which was acting as the scout team version of Penn State. At one point Dailey bolted to her feet and raced to the other end of the court to give some additional instructions.
Remaining on the subject of recruiting, UConn's only incoming freshman Saniya Chong's Ossining (N.Y.) plays its season opener tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. against Archbishop Molloy