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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

UConn gets defensive in blowing out No. 10 Duke

If Sue Bird wasn't among those sitting in the stands at the XL Center or Shea Ralph wasn't on the bench serving as one of the Huskies' assistant coaches, you could have convinced me that the UConn women's basketball team turned the page back to the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons when roster full of future WNBA stars relied on an aggressive defense to win one national title and narrowly missed out on another.

The Huskies took advantage of an inexperienced Duke backcourt by forcing 22 turnovers but it felt more like Duke threw the ball away 222 times.

"It was a pathetic display," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "The bottom line is they play harder than everybody else, they played harder than us. They got every hustle play."
Duke came into the game leading the nation in rebound margin, posting a mark of 21 per game that would shatter the NCAA Division I women's basketball record set by Louisiana Tech during the 1989-90 season. By game's end UConn won the rebounding battle by six en route to a seventh straight dominating victory in the one-sided series against the Blue Devils.
"That is something we have been focusing on a lot," UConn sophomore forward Morgan Tuck said. "We knew we had to play good defense, rebound and not give up offensive rebounds and we did that pretty well.
"I think we just boxed out and were more physical. I think that is one thing that Coach (Geno Auriemma) has really harped on is that we boxed out and made sure we rebounded."
UConn had one stretch with three steals in a span of 2:12. Guards Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse had five steals each as the Huskies once again ran the Blue Devils off the court.
"The intensity is going up and it becomes a competition between everybody on the court so I think that is really good for our team," Jefferson said.
Back when Sue Bird was running the show at UConn the Huskies used pressure defense to take their game to new heights. Relying on smaller player rotations in recent years, Auriemma has been somewhat reluctant to expose his team to foul trouble by extending the defensive pressure as much as he did against Duke.
"I don't think we can do it all the time against everybody," Auriemma said. "I think in certain situations, we trying to find in our practice when that is and against who, not necessarily against every team but there are times when that makes sense to do it and others that it doesn't. I was really happy with the effort today, it was pretty taxing on our guys. I don't think the effort was ever less than I wanted it to be."
A few things of note from the game. First, McCallie didn't rule out playing UConn again during the regular season but there is no game scheduled for next season after the teams have played in each of the last six seasons. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis hit four 3-pointers to move into sole possession of second place on UConn's career list. She is three behind Diana Taurasi's program record of 318. Breanna Stewart recorded her 200th career blocked shot. Finally. highly-touted Blair (N.J.) Academy sophomore wing Andra Espinoza-Hunter, who was sitting in the second row behind the UConn bench, committed to UConn according to her Philadelphia Belles AAU coaches.

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