Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

UConn's Nurse thriving from charity stripe

Taking a quick peek at the American Athletic Conference individual statistics, there are some simply staggering numbers.

There's the fact that three AAC players who don't play for UConn have better 3-point percentages in conference play than UConn's team mark of 43.4 percent. Then there is the one where UConn players rank No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 in both field goal and 3-point percentage.

However, the one that caught my eye was that the AAC's No. 5 ranked free-throw shooter is UConn freshman Kia Nurse. Yes,. the same Kia Nurse who was 1 of 6 from the foul line against Notre Dame. Nurse's forgettable showing left her 15 of 28 from the charity stripe. It was a bit of a head scratcher that a player who was shooting 43 percent from 3-point range barely had more free throws made than missed.

What has happened since that Notre Dame game gives a peek into just how competitive of a kid Nurse is. She is shooting 80 percent from the line since that ND game and is at 82 percent in AAC games. She had two stretches when she made seven FTs in a row and goes into today's game against Tulane with a streak of 11 straight foul shots converted. A sign of just how confident she is came at the end of a recent practice when UConn coach Geno Auriemma had the players line up for wind sprints when Nurse volunteered to make a free throw to get her teammates out of the additional running. Nurse calmly stepped to the line and drained the shot. Auriemma then called for freshman Gabby Williams, a 45.2 percent foul shooter, to make a free throw. Williams also converted and the two freshmen, who were already well liked by their veteran teammates, were even more popular.

"It is something we work on every day in practice, we try to put a couple up before practice and before the games," said Nurse. I think it is focus and concentration, those are free points, there is nobody in front of you and you have to make them.

"We do free throws a lot when we are here and a lot of times I didn't get the number I wanted to but I am liking those (numbers) right now."

One interesting aspect of today's game is the number of quality freshmen playing in the game.

There are seven freshmen averaging more than 10 points per game in conference play and three of them will be in action at Gampel Pavilion. Tulane's Kolby Morgan is averaging 11.8 points per game while Nurse and Williams check in at 11 and 10.8 PPG. Morgan leads all players in steals, Williams is No. 1 among freshmen in rebounding and field-goal percentage while Nurse leads all rookies in assists,assist/turnover ratio, free-throw percentage and 3-point percentage.

My initial plan was to focus the advance in today's paper on the three dynamic freshmen but after watching Auriemma turn up the pressure on Nurse, Williams and sophomore Saniya Chong in an intense defensive drill at the end of practice, I ended up writing about that. I did ask him for his thoughts on Morgan.

"Shea's been working on (scouting) Tulane and the kid scores points," Auriemma said. "My hope is that is that as time goes on that there are a lot of freshmen that come into the league like that so you can see the growth that is going to happen in the league because she is really good and they are a good team/"

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