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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Next six games could be key for UConn's reserves

While Geno Auriemma's comments that Kelly Faris' second-half performance in Monday's win over Duke "one for the ages" garnered most of the attention, he said something else that I found rather interesting regarding the player rotation.

"There’s a great line in the Thomas Jefferson book I’m reading right now that says sometimes your philosophical ideas have to give way to your philosophical ideas. You know my idea that we are going to play a lot of guys, we are going to give a lot of guys a lot of minutes and a great opportunity for them to play in a big game like this at home against Duke and then they are out there and you look at the way they are playing and you say why? So, I came out for the second half and (assistant coach) Shea (Ralph) goes 'we aren’t going to do that in the second half are we?' and I said 'no'. We put them in one at a time and took them out individually. What happened in the second half was we were able to keep our core for a long time and it really made all the difference in the world."

UConn has a stretch of six straight games against unranked teams, the longest for the program during the Big East portion of the schedule since the 2002-03 season before a Feb. 18 matchup with top-ranked and defending national champion Baylor. It goes without saying that this is a pivotal stretch (erspecially in practices) for players like Morgan Tuck, Kiah Stokes, Brianna Banks and Moriah Jefferson to earn themselves quality minutes when the Huskies match up with Baylor.

So after Thursday's practice I asked Auriemma how he balances getting minutes for his inexperienced reserves against loving the way the Huskies play with a veteran group of starters are on the court.

"You really have to be careful how you do it and you have to hope you don’t have foul trouble and you can do it because you want to do it and not because you have to do it," Auriemma said. "I think where we got caught in the first half (against Duke) is some of it was foul problems and we looked out there a couple of times and said ‘that was a bad lineup out there.’ I think we were out there with a bad lineup way too long. In the second half we didn’t have the foul problems so we were able to stay with the core lineup and at the same time you want to be able to able to get those guys some of those minutes in those kinds of games. Little by little I hope we can. Obviously, that is what we want to do. We managed to do a pretty decent job with Brianna Banks and now it is juts a matter of if all those guys are healthy trying to do it."

Tuck and Stokes have seen their practice time limited in the first half of the season which has impacted their development and confidence.

"It has been difficult on them because of the injuries," Auriemma said. "They haven’t had a lot of time on the practice floor. Morgan being a freshman it is even more difficult, with Kiah on again/off again you are never quite sure (how much she can practice). I think they are both fairly healthy that they will be able to make some real progress now and obviously you want to impress upon them that we are a good team without them but I don’t think we can be a great team unless they contribute. That goes for the two of them, Breanna Stewart, Brianna Banks, Moriah Jefferson. If we just go with the guys we had last year, they took us to the Final Four and adding the guys we added, if they contribute like I think they can, we ought to be a much better team but they need to be consistent in their contributions."

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