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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

UConn's Samuelson responding to Auriemma's prodding

If I've learned nothing else in the years I have covered the UConn women's basketball team, it is Geno Auriemma driving home the point that there's a huge difference between shooting well and playing well.

Katie Lou Samuelson, like fellow former Mater Dei High School and UConn star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, has what Auriemma has referred to as a "get out of jail free" card with their ability to hit 3-pointers.

As Auriemma did with Mosqueda-Lewis, who would graduate as the NCAA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made, he has been pushing Samuelson to bring more to the table than just the ability to hit shots from the perimeter. Making a couple of shots is not going to be enough to satisfy a demanding coach like Auriemma and it's hard to watch Samuelson play, especially in last night's win, and not think she has gotten the message.

While she still has some growing to do on the court, I thought Samuelson's effort against Memphis was the best of her young collegiate career.

Against South Florida Samuelson attempted five shots before she had any other statistic whether it was a rebound, assist, steal or blocked shot. Wen she failed to close out on a 3-point shooter when USF came roaring back, she got an earful from Auriemma who instructed all the players on the court at the time not to give up uncontested 3-pointers. When she got into the game against Memphis Samuelson quickly grabbed a defensive rebound and on the ensuing possession, battled hard for an offensive rebound. The shots would come later as Samuelson finished with a pair of 3-pointers en route to scoring 11 points but when it came to her compete level, I thought this was a really good showing for her.

"Just going in and getting that rebound kind of gave me a bounce in my step and made me ready for the rest of the game," Samuelson said. "Instead of having a slow start where I did nothing, I got in there, got an offensive rebound. Whenever I come off the bench, that is what I need to do. I need to do something that is going to get my game going and I am not just relying on that first 3 that I am going to hit. I have noticed different ways that I have been able to get points, mostly if I focus on getting other people shots too the other ones come easier."

Auriemma said it is not a coincidence that Samuelson's shots have started to fall with more regularity as she contributes to UConn's success in other ways.

"She has been getting more aggressive every day," Auriemma said. "Her practices are getting better, she is doing more things and it is not unusual that the more things that you start doing that the more your shot starts dropping. She is doing so many different things right now that her confidence level is way higher than it was a month ago."

Auriemma certainly drove the point home to Samuelson during a Dec. 30 game at Cincinnati when he did not summon the reigning national high school player of the year off the bench until there was 1:48 to play in the third quarter. He wanted Samuelson to compete harder in practices and not just for stretches in practice.

Samuelson had a pretty good idea that messages like that would be coming when she decided to commit to UConn.
"I kind of expected it to be one of the hardest things I've done but just the consistency that I need to put myself into and my hard work, it definitely has been harder than anything I've done. I am kind of getting better at doing what they ask me to do. Recently with how hard I have been trying to push myself, it has made things easier not only during games but in practice."

Auriemma mentioned after the Memphis game that he was encouraged that the three road games in three different states did not become merely a showcase for Breanna Stewart but other players and in particular younger players stepped up in different ways.

"It has helped us a lot," Samuelson said. "We have gotten different kinds of games and a lot of playing time in each of them. I think the variety we have been through has really helped us as players and prepared us for what is going to come later.

"I think we have definitely grown, having these three games that close, everybody's going to be tired, everybody wants to go home and we knew coming into this game that we had to take care of business. Just being able to rely on each other knowing that everyone is going through the same thing that you are, you really want to do that and go as hard as you can for your teammates."

UConn incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield is one of 25 girls' basketball players named to the midseason watch list for the Naismith Trophy.

Dangerfield, a senior guard at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., is averaging 23.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.4 steals per game as a senior.

The national semifinalists will be announced on Feb. 10, the finalists on Feb. 24 while the winner will be announced on Mar. 10.

Another honor could be coming Dangerfield's way on Sunday as that is the day the 24 boys and girls players taking part in the McDonald's All-American Game will be announced. The squads will be revealed on the selection show airing on ESPNU from 10:30-11 p.m. It would be stunning turn of events for Dangerfield not be one of the 24 girls players selected to play in the Mar. 30 game at the United Center in Chicago.

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Anonymous Joe said...

One part of Samuelson's game recently that has been really encouraging to me has been the way she cuts to the basket and makes her layups. that is going to be really, really important,
-- the motion offense off multiple off-ball screens is an essential engine of UConn's overall offensive success, and
-- as other teams start to cheat to pack the middle to cut down on those layups, it will open up more uncontested shots from outside.

This year also is a bit of a treat as the contributions are coming from all four classes, there are a few years where most of the contributions seem to come disproportionately from one group.

2:43 PM 

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