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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

UConn's Nurse looking to build off strong end to regular season

During my time covering the UConn women's basketball team, I have witnessed the run to eight national champions and 12 Final Fours. However, I don't recall ever seeing such a difference in a player's splits between ranked and unranked competition as what has transpired this season with Kia Nurse.

If my math is correct, the sophomore guard is averaging 8.4 points and shooting 26.4 percent from 3-point range against unranked teams. However, with Nurse scoring 15 points aided by hitting 4 of 7 shots from behind the 3-point line, she is averaging 12.1 points while shooting 52.9 from long range.

"I have no explanation for it," said Nurse, who headed into UConn's regular-season finale having scored in double figures just once in the last 14 games. "I know in practice the other day that shots were not falling, I got out and shot a couple more shots. It is really just a matter of being confident in the shot that is going up. I think I had a lot more faith in myself, I was ready to shoot the ball, had my feet set."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma joked that during a heart to heart chat with Nurse at halftime on Monday night, he spoke to her in Canadian to get his point across.

"He figures out ways to get under your skin and light a fire in a productive way," Nurse said. "He tells you exactly what you do wrong and he gives you credit for what you do well. At halftime it was mostly what I did wrong, trying to fire me up in ways to make me use my anger in a productive manner to come out and have a great second half."

All joking aside, in the more recent stretch of games UConn tended to become reliant on the trio of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Katie Lou Samuelson to carry the offense. It is not standard operation procedure for UConn to operate in that fashion.

As UConn wrapped up the eighth undefeated regular season in program history, seeing Nurse and Morgan Tuck take such a proactive role on offense was probably the best thing to emerge from the game.

Tuck's numbers in the last few weeks aren't terrible but for a player who tends to be nearly automatic when she gets the ball in the low post, there have been times in recent games when she not only missed layup attempts but uncharacteristically put up shots that no chance of finding the mark.

"It really has been a struggle lately and it is frustrating," Tuck said. "I am just trying to do what I can to help the team and not hurt (them), just try to relax and forget about the last games."

The pairings for the American Athletic Conference tournament came out last night.

UConn receives a bye into the quarterfinals and will play the winner of the Cincinnati/East Carolina game on Saturday at about 2:30 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena. With a win (and the Huskies beat the Bearcats and Pirates by an average of 92.8-41.5 in four regular-season games this season), the Huskies would play either Memphis or Tulane in Sunday's semifinals.

STEWART, WILLIAMS TOP AAC CHARTS
With the regular season coming to a close last night, it's time to see where UConn players ranked in the AAC.

In conference play, Stewart led the way in both blocked shots (63 in 18 games) and assist/turnover ratio (3.7) which is such a unique combination. She is also in the top five in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and assists. Gabby Williams was the conference leader with a 67.0 field-goal percentage.

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