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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Despite graduation losses, Notre Dame still a threat


Beating five ranked teams including top-ranked Stanford allowed the UConn women's basketball team to head into 2013 with an unblemished record and No. 1 national rankings.

Both of those could be tested with perennial nemesis Notre Dame coming to town on Saturday.

The sold-out nationally-televised showdown between the two dominant forces in the world of Big East women’s basketball will be followed by road games against perennially rugged Georgetown and Marquette squads.

“We have a few days to prepare for it and I think we are ready,” UConn senior guard Caroline Doty said. “It is always intense playing them. It is always a great game. It is a new year so it is going to be interesting to see which team comes out but we are going to prepare for them like we always have and keep working hard.”

It will be a different Notre Dame team than the one which ended the Huskies’ five-year run as Big East regular-season champions and knocked the Huskies out in the national semifinals for the second straight year. Three starters have graduated including first-round WNBA picks Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters. The Fighting Irish do return reigning Big East Player of the Year Skylar Diggins as well as athletic wing Kayla McBride and post Natalie Achonwa. Dynamic freshman Jewell Loyd as well as vastly improved junior Ariel Braker round out the normal starting five for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame has hit triple digits in points in three of its last six games including scoring a season high 128 points against St. Francis (Pa.) on Monday, a scoring outburst made all the more impressive considering that Diggins only attempted four shots.

“I think it is kind of like when Maya (Moore) graduated and other players step up and make some contributions,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “When freshmen step in like Stefanie (Dolson) and Bria (Hartley) did as freshman, when they step into your program and have to play a lot, they surprise you with the number of things they can do and do well.

“Natalie (Achonwa) got a lot of experience playing in the Olympics (for Canada). She is a lot better than she was two years ago and it better than she was last year. Jewell Loyd has really made a huge difference on their team. She is one of the best freshmen in the country in my mind and she has added an awful lot because Notre Dame did lose a lot obviously. Everybody knew that McBride is a great player in high school and played great for them during their run (to the Final Four) so they have a lot of pieces in place. Their depth is going to depend on how well their freshmen keep improving but I am not surprised.”

UConn had a long trip home from Oregon so Auriemma isn’t going to rush into preparations for the Notre Dame game.

“(Tuesday) is a day to recover,” Auriemma said. “Wednesday we will probably just get back into our normal routines that we do for game days and really Thursday the real work will start. Thursday and Friday we will spend two days on the court getting ready for Saturday.”



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3 Comments:

Blogger James Kerwin said...

Achonwa is an excellent center. Loyd is an amazing shooter. McBride and Diggins are excellent from the 3 point range.
I'm not sure how they all can handle the new pressing Uconn is doing.
Last year, at ND, Geno threw KML, at the end of the game to the ND wolves. This was the time he should have used Doty. KML not handling the pressure and fumbled the ball--sending it into overtime. Doty should have been in not KML. But KML can handle anything Nd may thrust at her this year and so can Stewie. If Tuck can give a few minutes under the basket and Banks and steal from Diggins with Dolson easily handling Achonwa. Muffet may chose to go home at half time.

Love Muffet she is one of the top 3 coaches in Womens basketball.

6:23 PM 
Anonymous Dave Butler said...

Diggins, Loyd, and McBride. Faris cannot guard all 3 at once. Doty is not quick enough to guard any of the 3. Dolson in foul trouble or tired could easily spell LOSS for UConn. All depends on the refs. Considering the refs were kind to Dolson against Stanford, think it averages out on Saturday.

8:42 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave--I think Geno will start with Faris on Diggins. Hartley on McBride, Dolson on Achonwa, KML on Braker, Doty on Loyd. At the first break in the game--Stewart will take on Braker, Faris to Loyd, and Banks on Diggins, Hartley to McBride, Dolson on Achonwa,
Next Break--KML in for Banks--guards McBride, Hartley on Diggins

In any case it will be a chess match. Dolson is so much more active and tires less easily.
You are right about the Refs--so what ever problems UConn has with them so shall ND. Achonwa is prone to foul out.
Uconn has a lot more options now then last year.
Tuck can relieve Dolson in the post. KML plays well under the basket and out on the perimeter.

If you measure opponent of UConn and Opponents of ND--UConn has had the harder road-and won. Muffet likes whipping up on underdogs--Geno not so much. In all of Uconn's romps the last 6 on the bench have played more than 20 minutes in those games--can ND say the same?? NO!!!

4:46 PM 

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