UConn shows offensive balance in win over Marquette
After a couple of games where he watched his team struggle at times offensively and fall into the trap of being too perimeter orientated, UConn coach Geno Auriemma spent a couple of days of practice focusing on getting the ball down low to Stefanie Dolson.
The extra emphasis on reestablishing a low-post offense was immediately evident when Stefanie Dolson scored in the lane just 22 seconds into the game.
“As Coach said we put an emphasis of getting the ball inside and our guards did a great job of delivering it to me and giving me good passes,” Dolson said. “I think we did a good job of getting the ball inside/out and having a good balance.”
Dolson finished with 20 points, most of them coming down low which opened up things for Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to hit four 3-pointers and score a game-high 24 points.
“We talked a lot about that the last couple of days,” Auriemma said. “We made it a point the last couple of days to get Stefanie the ball as much as possible. We did and I think that created a whole other set of problems with Marquette. I thought the ball movement was great that first 20 minutes. We got the exact shot we wanted to get most every time down the floor. It has been a while since we have come out with that kind of focus to start games and it was good to see.”
While it should be pointed out that Marquette didn't have the type of personnel that could keep Dolson from getting position down low, it still was pleasing for Auriemma to see that less than a third of the field-goal attempts came from 3-point range.
"Ideally it is always a third of all your shots should come from transition, from half court/post play and 3-pointers," Auriemma said. "If we can do that I think we are operating at a real high level.
The news was not all good. Bria Hartley, who missed more than a month of preseason camp as well as the first two games of the season with a sprained ankle, only played five minutes in the first half before hurting her ankle again. After getting her ankle re-taped, she headed into the locker room and did not return until the start of the second half. However, Hartley did not play again as Moriah Jefferson started the second half.
Sarina Simmons led Marquette (8-6, 0-2) with 19 points.
UConn freshman Breanna Stewart missed the game due to a sprained ankle. Stewart injured her ankle in Friday’s practice and will be reevaluated when the Huskies return home.
“Bria just rolled her ankle,” Auriemma said. “We are waiting to see tomorrow or something but she rolled and it is the same one that was bothering her before. I thought it was best don't push your luck. Breanna Stewart stepped on somebody's foot yesterday, turned her ankle and that was that. There is not much you can do about those things. I am hopeful that both of them will be back on Tuesday. Some sprained ankles are worse than others so we will see.”
Stewart rolled her ankle after stepping on Mosqueda-Lewis' foot during a rebounding drill.
"Bree was getting a little aggressive going after it and she fell," Mosqueda-Lewis said.
MITCHELL A BIG FAN OF FARIS
Marquette coach Terri Mitchell developed an appreciation for the invaluable contributions Kelly Faris can make to a team when she coached the UConn senior a few years back on a junior national team.
With Faris having her typically rock solid performance with 11 points, five rebounds, eight assists and five steals, Mitchell heaped tremendous praise on Faris after the game.
"She is the glue," Mitchell said. "You need a Kelly Faris to win a national championship. She will do whatever is asked of her. When I coached her in USA Basketball just that one year, she left an incredible impression on me. A) she has an incredible basketball IQ, B) she is going to dive on every loose ball. She is not concerned about stats, she is concerned about what do I need to do to be successful for this team, You see her defending posts, you see her making the assists, you see her driving and hitting 3's, she is the total package. Other players might get a lot of fanfare but there is Kelly Miss Consistency doing whatever is asked of her. I am in the Kelly Faris fan club. She gets it, she is calm, she is steady. If I was her teammate and I needed confidence I would look at her."
On a more sobering subject, I asked Mitchell about joining Notre Dame as the only Big East team to face UConn twice during the regular season as the teams will meet at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 5.
"We got chosen and it is what can we do to get better out of it," Mitchell said. "Here is what we are preaching at Marquette, it is a process. It you only focus on results, you can win a game and not get better, you can lose a game and get better. Our whole focus is process, effort and toughness, manage your emotions. We are trying to do that. UConn, we have a measuring stick here. UConn, we are going to play them again at their place which is going to be that much more difficult. Can we find a way to get better by the time we play them the second time. My second thought is great power points because I am playing the top team in the country. The second time around we are going to find ways to hopefully get better and for our players gain confidence."