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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

UConn adapting just fine without Dolson

Gabby Williams and Kiah Stokes are among
top rebounders for second-ranked UConn
Few duos in UConn women's basketball history were more productive than Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley so it was safe to assume that there would be some rough patches without the two All-Americans.

The feeling was that Hartley's absence would be somewhat easier to deal with especially with the arrival of Canadian national team point guard Kia Nurse but Dolson's graduation was expected to leave a huge hole for the Huskies to deal with.

However, the numbers tell a different story. I looked back at the statistics through 16 games both this season and during the 2013-14 campaign and I found that the Huskies actually have more points in the paint, second-chance points, offensive rebounds and a higher rebound margin than they did a season ago.

"We aren't rebounding differently," UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart said. "We are crashing the boards just as aggressively. People have learned to embrace that even more, myself, Morgan (Tuck), Gabby (Williams), Kiah (Stokes) and even the guards, we want to make sure when the other team shoots it we get the rebound, they get one shot and we get the ball back. Offensively we want to keep it alive as much as we can."

It is on the offensive boards where the Huskies have made the greatest strides.

Last season through 16 games UConn grabbed the offensive rebounds on 39 percent of the missed field goals while this year that number has soared to 44.9 percent. In an attempt to put it into perspective, if the Huskies maintain the current pace it would be the best mark at UConn since the 2008-09 season.

"I think it is a mindset," Stewart said. "We want to be prepared for anything and when we shoot, there are times when I get thinking 'it is going in' if Kaleena, Morgan or somebody shoots it, I am thinking it is going in but to think beyond that and crash the boards even in the ball does go in because they other team is not ready for it."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma isn't quite ready to believe what the numbers might be saying as he continues to push the Huskies to be a more aggressive rebounding team.

"That is one of those cases where I don't know that the numbers tell the whole story," Auriemma said. "It is still something that we always have to work on, I think we are doing a pretty good job on the rebounding end but I don't know it is something we come to practice every day or we get together as coaches and say 'wow, we are a really good rebounding team.' The numbers might say that we are but I don't know. I am still always harping on that."

Stokes leads UConn in both offensive rebounds (36) and total rebounds (128) while Stewart continues to be a regular contributor in the rebounding department but the contributions of a healthy Morgan Tuck and arrival of freshmen Gabby Williams and Nurse have allowed UConn to put up some pretty impressive numbers through the first 16 games.

"We talk about it a lot, people think you can work on rebounding and become a better rebounding team, you can work on boxing out and all that other stuff but the bottom line is one of the best rebounders we have is Gabby," Auriemma said. "It is because the ball goes up, she goes and chases it and you can say all you want about working on it which is fine but once in a while you get a kid that likes to go after the ball. That is probably the easiest way to explain it, she just has that knack for the ball."

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