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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, January 06, 2014

UConn working on half-court offense

I'm never quite sure what I'll see at the portions of practice I have been able to witness during my team covering this team.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma has plenty of drills to call upon and he will pull them out depending on what he thinks his team needs to work on.

Today the focus at the end of practice was on half-court offense. With UConn still on break, there aren't many male practice players to offer defensive resistance so it was a perfect time for him to pull out on of his favorite drills - 5 on 0 half-court offense.

When I got out there Bria Hartley was out there with reserves Kiah Stokes, Brianna Banks, Saniya Chong and Morgan Tuck. Three straight times Stokes hit a layup when Auriemma bellowed "so we're taking the easy way out? The same guy scores every time, that's taking the easy way out.'"

When Tuck hit a foul-line jumper on the next possession Auriemma applauded and then brought in the other four starters to replace the four reserves.

"It is easier to run offense when you are playing 5 on 5 than it is playing 5 on 0," Auriemma said. "Some of the best teams we have had were really good at running our stuff with no defense. We could do it for a half hour sometimes, that 2002 team, Rebecca's team, teams that have been around for a while, Maya her junior  year. It is hard because you have to have an imagination because when you are playing 5 on 5 the guy guarding you is going to dictate what you are doing. But if there isn't a guy guarding you, you have a tendency to go catch it and throw a pass and you go 'you know you just hit the guy guarding you in the face with a pass. It makes every cut thy make, everything they do a lot to their imagination and that is kind of how basketball is, you see something that you might do right now. It is something I have always done with my teams and some teams are better at it than others."

With all the traveling the team has done recently, it hasn't always been easy to work on offensive sets so Auriemma used much of Monday's practice to fine tune some stuff.   

"I think the pros probably struggle with it more than college teams, when you are on the road a lot it is difficult to find the time to practice the kinds of things that you want to get better at and even now we had a day off yesterday and you are here the day before the game and there are only so many things that you can do," Auriemma said. "I think this week we are going to have a chance to get a lot better at things I want us to get better at at shoot around tomorrow, at the game and then a couple of practices Thursday and Friday. Next Sunday is kind of going to be a throwaway day because you play Saturday and you play Monday and you are really limited and what usually tends to suffer is your offensive execution."

It's never easy for a new coach to take over a program with several months to prepare so imagine what Wade Scott is going through at Houston. Scott, who has been an assistant coach for the last eight seasons, was elevated to interim coach when Todd Buchanan left for what was termed personal reasons.

The Cougars enter tomorrow's game against UConn on a three-game losing streak and with a 4-10 record.

"It is a lot to ask anybody anytime especially during the season," Auriemma said. "He's been there for a while and he knows the system  little bit. They are struggling a little bit trying to find their way."

It didn't take long to realize that Moriah Jefferson returned home from the recent road trip with more than just memories of the trip to Orlando and Memphis.

She is dealing with a cold which left her struggling to speak above a whisper.

"We are making jokes that she sounds like a little Michael Jackson or Smokey Robinson, it is barely there pretty much," UConn sophomore forward Morgan Tuck said.

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