Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Challenging Big East opener for Huskies

In recent years the Big East Conference has allowed UConn to ease into conference play against second-division teams. That is most certainly not the case this season with defending Big East regular-season champion and fifth-ranked Notre Dame coming to Gampel Pavilion.

The last time the Huskies opened conference play against a team that would go on and finish with the winning record in the Big East came in the 2005-06 when the Huskies played Villanova.

Drawing the Fighting Irish right away is just fine with UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

"I don't think it does (matter)," Auriemma said. "A lot of times during this particular time of the year it has been a non-conference game on television that first weekend in January has always been one big non-conference game that CBS does and I am glad now it is us and Notre Dame because it is a great conference game and a great TV game. There are plenty of times to play those other teams but you only get two opportunities, we get two, they get two during the regular season so I guess it is fitting that it is the first one and the last one.

"I don't think whichever team is 0-1 tomorrow night is going to feel like they just lost the Big East championship. I just think any time you play a conference game and you want to give yourself a head start but it is a long season, a long grind and a lot is going to happen in these two months. What you are hoping is your team can just adjust to the different styles, different places, different time zones and keep making adjustments. More than anything you want to be able to play anywhere at any time against anybody and feel like you can accomplish what you are setting out to accomplish. If you are 1-0 after tomorrow that is even better."

UConn won 28 of the first 32 games in the series but Notre Dame but with the Fighting Irish winning four of the last five games including wins over the Huskies in the last two Final Fours, this has turned into a legitimate grudge match. Notre Dame is the only team to have knocked the Huskies out of the NCAA tournament three teams as the Fighting Irish beat Connecticut in the national semifinals in 2001, 2011 and 2012.

While none of the current players were around for the 2001 game, the memories of back to back losses when the Huskies stood two wins away from a national championship are still fresh in the Huskies' minds.

"It aggravates (us) just the number of times we have played and they have beat us and outworked us, played better," UConn junior center Stefanie Dolson said. "It would not be as bad if we played great and they beat us knowing they are a better team but every time we have played them and we have outworked us, they have done the little things harder and better. It is definitely what fuels us and gets us out in practice knowing that happened and can happen."

According to her high school coach, UConn signee Saniya Chong will be in the stands for tomorrow's game. The father of UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target Brianna Turner said that the 6-foot-3 forward for Manvel (Tex.) High will be here as well.


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