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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, January 13, 2014

UConn outlasts Baylor

I guess there are a couple of ways at looking at a game like UConn's 66-55 win over Baylor on Monday night.

There are those who will look at the fact that the teams, ranked first and seventh respectively in the recently-released Associated Press poll, combined to miss nearly twice as many shots as they made, that the teams combined for more turnovers than assists or that just one of the seven reserves who played in the game scored.

I take a different view of things. After sitting through 40 and 50-point wins and witnessing ranked teams wilt the first time UConn began to turn up the heat, it was an absolute joy to see Baylor come at the Huskies and display the belief it could take down the team that some have already crowned national champions.

A year ago the Achilles' heel of the Huskies was an inability to win the close games as Notre Dame took out the Huskies three times and Baylor also recorded a win over UConn. With nothing resembling a close game in the first 17 games, there was never a chance to see how the Huskies would react if a team was within three points with less than four minutes to play as Baylor was on Monday night.

Baylor had a chance to tie the game with 4:21 left to play but Imani Wright missed a 3-pointer.

Stefanie Dolson, who had made little impact in the game up to that point, hit a pair of free throws and after a blocked shot by Kiah Stokes, Breanna Stewart hit a tough shot under duress in the lane and Dolson scored again to allow UConn to open a nine-point lead. Baylor would not get closer than seven points the rest of the way.

It was far from pretty but when it needed to, UConn found a way to execute both on offense and defense.

"It feels good," said UConn senior guard Bria Hartley. "I love games like this. I am really proud of my teammates and how we responded."

Down the stretch it was some of UConn's most experienced players who shook off a game's worth of uncharacteristically poor play to deliver.

Over the final 8:34 Stefanie Dolson had six points and Hartley had five to power UConn to victory.

"There were certainly possessions when we had to win those possessions and we did," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Making any kind of play was hard tonight.

"We have drills in practice where I won't let them shoot unless we make a certain number of passes and they really have to concentrate and we talked about that during one of the huddles, 'let's give them a chance to make a mistake. Let's give them a chance to lose somebody on a screen or get a mismatch inside' and we never gave them a chance, we came down and made one or two passes and shoot something up. That is all well and good when they are all going in but we were timely.

"Kiah Stokes was right on target with everything we needed her to do, Moriah Jefferson was right on target with everything we needed her to do. She made just enough 3's, got just enough loose balls, a couple steals, didn't turn the ball over. Bria Hartley, we challenged her at halftime. We said Bria, this is not acceptable on any level. Bria came into this game a little bit lacking in confidence and that showed in the first half because I don't think she played with the kind of confidence that she normally does and we really got after her at halftime and just like I knew she would, she played like Bria Hartley, the All-American."

Earlier today USA Basketball announced the names of 33 players in the U.S. senior national team player pool. After the game Auriemma was asked for his take on the inclusion of six current college players including four playing in this game (Baylor's Odyssey Sims and the UConn trio of Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart).

"If I was up to me, there would be no college kids in that pool but I am thrilled there are six college players because whoever is the coach in 2020 is going to need players to step in because there is not going to be any Diana, Sue or Tamika Catchings or Lindsay Whalen," Auriemma said. "There are a lot of players who have won a lot of gold medals who are not going to be around in 2020 and USA Basketball needs to start identifying who that next group of players is going to be."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

2 Pink Elephants in the room.

No denying that KML is slower than last year. Louisville, Notre Dame, Kentucky, etc, no doubt will try to get her into foul trouble again. Anyone who thought KML would be better than Maya forgot how great she was.

Dolson is not in as good as shape as last year. Or has she been sick? This was not the first game she was gassed early in both halves. Cannot blame the absence of Tuck. Auriemma will play Dolson more minutes against Louisville and in the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4.

Have been saying that Dolson was the MVP and Jefferson was the key to the NC. After watching how both played against an Elite 8 team, Jefferson might have passed Dolson as the MVP. Foul trouble or unfortunate injury to Jefferson puts the ball in less talented hands. And no one else on UConn drives to the basket like her.

UConn would be smart to have Tuck just swim, ride the bike, or walk steep inclines on the treadmill. UConn does not need Tuck until the Louisville game. She has to be healthy for the Elite 8 and onward.

Ugly game. Baylor taught young kids about flopping. Refs were terrible as usual. So were Burke and Mowins on TV. Listen to their nonsense on DVR.

6:26 AM 
Anonymous Joe said...

Very nice to see Stokes on the floor when it counted. Her defense and rebounding helped seal the win. She blocked a shot at a key spot in the game.

9:16 AM 

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