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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, November 16, 2015

UConn's defense steals the show in season opener

When Geno Auriemma saw the halftime score in Friday's Ohio State/South Carolina game, he likely needed to do a double take.

As talented as Ohio State's perimeter duo of Kelsey Mitchell and Ameryst Alston are, putting up 47 points on the road against a South Carolina team that is normally a defensive juggernaut made Auriemma wonder what it would look like when his Huskies traveled to meet the Buckeyes on Monday night.

The last thing he expected was a 44-point win or seeing Mitchell and Alston go a combined 5 of 27 from the field including 0 for 6 from 3-point range.

"I thought we were amazing on defense," Auriemma said. "That whole first half, I thought we were great. I thought Gabby Williams and Moriah Jefferson kind of set the tone early on. They may have made it look easy but it is not easy guarding those guys, I am really happy for them and I am really proud of them.

"We watch film just like everybody else watches film and we know South Carolina is a really good team and they are especially a good defensive team so when you see the score, when I saw it was 47-45 at halftime I shook my head and I said this is going to be hard. When we showed some of that stuff to our players, they got the message. They knew that these two guys could score a lot of points. Kelsey Mitchell getting those two fouls early probably put a little bit of a damper on her game."

Mitchell had eight points and Alston seven leaving Shayla Cooper (17 points, eight rebounds) as the only Ohio State player to score consistently against the Huskies.

Just 14 seconds into the game Williams, a sophomore making her first career start, had the first of her game-high four steals which she quickly converted into the game's first two points.

Neither Mitchell nor Alston scored in the first quarter and had just three points by halftime.

"You know they are going to come out and take their shot so you are going to have to do to run with them, get your hands up the whole time and hopefully they don't shoot them as much," Jefferson said.
"It was a great team defense, everybody was switching onto those guys and were being active. I think if we can play like that all season, I think we will be fine.

"I don't think people realize how much defense we do in practice, how hard our practices are so any time you can come out here and show what we have been doing in practice for however many weeks, I think it is good."

Junior guard Saniya Chong, who had been sidelined recently due to IT Band Syndrome, was not expected to play due to the practice time she missed but she did get enough done in the last day or two to take part in warmups before the game and checked into the game late in the fourth quarter.

"I was surprised because at shootaround today she went through it and all of a sudden, 'hey if she feels good coming out of this, she wants to play,'" Auriemma said. "I was the most shocked person in the gym because I thought there was no way she was going to play. I said to myself I am not going to play her, she hasn't practiced in a week. I gave her a choice and said. 'do you want to play a little bit?' and she said yes. Now we can get started when we get back so it was a pleasant surprise for me."


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