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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Temple tests UConn - for a while

There were times during the first half of Sunday's game against Temple that I was thinking that this is what I should have seen from a couple of the teams picked to finish near the top of the American Athletic Conference standings.

However, South Florida and East Carolina barely made UConn break a sweat in the three times they have played the Huskies. Temple, barely more than two weeks removed from a humbling defeat, did make UConn work.

The Owls did a few things well. First, after getting completely dominated in the points in the paint and second-chance points categories in the January 14 meeting, actually held the statistical edge in both categories (28-22 in points in the paint, 9-5 in second-chance points). Also, UConn only managed four fast-break points which is vitally important in keeping the Huskies' prolific offense under control.

The strategy employed by Temple head coach and former UConn assistant coach Tonya Cardoza was an interesting one. When either Breanna Stewart or Morgan Tuck were hanging out around the top of the key on offense, the Temple defense would back off of them (especially Tuck) daring them to take shots from the perimeter. The move seemed to fluster  both Stewart and Tuck early in the game as both of them missed shots they normally make.

"I think recently a lot of teams have been trying to play me that way, they have been giving me the jump shot and I haven't been hitting them," said Tuck, who finished with 15 points but was just 7 of 18 from the field. "That is the smart way to play it because I am not hitting that shot so they did it a little more.

"I think it make it more of a challenge, we can't take things for granted and have to play our game. Today, I think we played the way Temple wanted us to play."

Temple held leads of 5-0 and 8-4, the largest deficits faced against a fellow American Athletic Conference team this season. Stewart had baskets to start and finish an 8-0 run which gave the Huskies the lead for good.

"You are surprised when they are that far off of you, it is the fact that we have to keep being aggressive, those are shots we know we can make so we need to keep on shooting them," said Stewart, who had a game-high 17 points.

Cardoza, who helped the Huskies to five national championships during her time as an assistant coach, has a better idea of how UConn goes about it business more than most coaches and she used that inside knowledge to her advantage.

"Tonya has been around for a while," Auriemma said, "I think she understands a little bit about what she wants to do. I was pretty impressed with ow they approached the game today."

Cardoza explained her philosophy after the game.

"They can really shoot the basketball when they are open, I definitely think our guys went out there and fought hard until the very end," Cardoza said. "We can't match up with them 1 on 1 in the past so we decided to leave one of them open and make them shoot from the outside. We knew that the last time we played them they scored almost 50 (more) points in the past shooting almost 90 percent in the paint. We have a better shot of them missing from the outside then a wide-open layup. That was one of the adjustments and I think that worked out for us for a while but eventually they started making shots. They paid attention to the game plan and that was to give them shots. They were wide open and that was the game plan that they would be wide open and hopefully they would miss."

As for some notes from the game.

The win was Auriemma's 899th at UConn. He goes for No. 900 Tuesday against Cincinnati, a team coached by former UConn forward and assistant coach Jamelle Elliott. He would be the fastest Division I women's coach to reach 900 wins. There will be more on that in the next day or two. It was also the 22nd season in a row the Huskies have won 20 games. I asked Auriemma to reflect on a time when winning 20 games was a big deal and I will share his thoughts (which included some great stuff).

After the game UConn Senior Women's Administrator said that a contract has been signed to start a home and home with Ohio State (featuring high-scoring freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell) with the first game being played in Columbus, Ohio next season.

Temple freshman Dan Ray from Cumberland, Maine won $10,000 by making a half-court heave during one of the media timeouts. Temple guard Tyonna Williams joked that she makes half-court shots in practices and shootaround but it never resulted in her receiving $10,000.

Auriemma was letting the one and two-liners fly towards the end of the press conference.

"She got as many as a dead person."

ON FORMER UCONN FORWARD WILLNETT CROCKETT BECOMING AN ASSISTANT ON CARDOZA'S STFF AT TEMPLE"Willnett Crockett coaching would be the equivalent of when somebody told Columbus that the world was round."

"I didn't see her. I wish she would have come up, at the 5-minute mark I could have gotten her in."


Anonymous Joe said...

Not only is Geno the fastest to 900 is really amazing to see his record once the entire squad was composed only of his recruits.

In his first three years, UConn went 43 - 39 (52.4%). So far, in the subsequent 27, UConn is 856 - 95 (90.0%). That is slightly better than averaging 35 - 4 records every single year for 27 years!


8:50 PM 

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