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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Allowing no free-throw attempts not one of UConn's defensive goals

The statistic is sort of the basketball version of the Twilight Zone.

Statistically speaking, UConn has some of the top defensive teams in NCAA women's basketball history yet just seven times in program history have the Huskies not surrendered a free throw to an opponent. It happened to occur in each of the last two games.

"We played two teams (Tulane and Houston) that shoot a lot of jump shots, don't really try to attack the lane and push it on the dribble," Auriemma said. "That is just unusual, that just doesn't happen."
But it has.
South Carolina's Aleighsa Welch made one free throw and missed the second one after being fouled by Moriah Jefferson with 2:25 left in UConn's 25-point win over previously undefeated and top-ranked South Carolina on Feb. 9. Since then no opposing player has been awarded a foul shot.
"In the end that is kind of the object of the game, that is why it is called a foul because it is not allowed," Auriemma said. "You would want to try to pay the game where you don't do things that are not allowed. It is not much different from a turnover. You turn it over 18-20 times, everybody is up in arms 'oh my God that is a lot of turnovers.' If you commit 17/18 fouls 'that is all right' That is not all right. We spend a lot of times in practice making sure it is not all right. That is not to say we are going to go into a game saying we are not going to give up any free throws. A goal in our games is to not get into the 1 and 1, that was a goal coming into (Tuesday), that was the game plan and it is the game plan every day. These last two opponents, it just kind of played out that way."
If the Huskies were as adept at not fouling when the season began as they are now they would likely be in position for yet another perfect season. However. in a Nov. 17 overtime loss at Stanford the Huskies allowed Lili Thompson to attempt 12 foul shots while Bonnie Samuelson and Kailee Johnson took six free throws each.

"We probably led the country in fouling 3-point shooters which is like the dumbest thing in basketball that you can do," Auriemma said.  "(Making) 3s are not easy, great 3-point shooters even K (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis), you are only going to make have of them if you are the best 3-point shooter of all time. I don't know anybody who shoots 50 percent from the free throw line, not good players anyway so to me fouling a 3-point shooter has to be the dumbest thing you could possibly do as a player and we were doing that on a regular basis for a while.

"The next thing is fouling two-point shooters who are shooting jump shots so we kind of cleaned that up for the most part  and the rest of the stuff is being aware of what is going on around you. Not being undisciplined to the point that you don' know where you are, you don't know where the ball is and you don't know what is going on. I think over the last month I think we have gotten really good at controlling the things that we can control. We are making teams have to do stuff to make us foul them instead of just fouling them just because we want to. We are not in the giving spirit. Valentine's Day is a pointless holiday, Christmas season we were in a giving spirit."

In the first 12 games of the season Auriemma could not believe how many times his players fouled an opponent in the act of taking a jumper. When the calendar switched from 2014 to 2015, he began to see a difference as the Huskies went from allowing 12.2 free throws per game in the first 12 contests of the season to just seven attempts over the last 14 games.
"Coach has been emphasizing not fouling jump shooters and that has been huge in the last two games," UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart said. "The fact that they haven't gotten into the 1 and 1 in either (half in the last two games) kind of shows that our defense is growing and maturing. Hopefully we will continue to do that. We have gotten more and more comfortable with our defensive rotations. If somebody beats you they are going to have to make a tough shot because the person with help-side (defensive responsibility) is going to come and contest the shot."

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Anonymous Joe said...

In a was, this story emphasizes what makes UConn's offensive execution so special.

On defense, if one player gets beat, another helps out. That means that you have to hit the open player twice, not once.

UConn's ball movement against help defense is extraordinary. A pass goes to the first open player, a defender rushes at her, and so she passes again to another open player. If someone then rushes at her, she finds a person open back door for a layup; else she has an uncontested shot.

12:57 PM 

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