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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, November 28, 2016

UConn freshmen Bent, Irwin embracing expectations

Time will tell what caliber of players that freshmen Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin will turn out to be but there is no questioning that when it comes to first-year players who "get it" these two would definitely qualify.

Bent and Irwin knew that UConn coach Geno Auriemma didn't win a record 11 national championships by letting his new batch of recruits kick back and learn things at their own rate. He sets certain expectations and it is up to them to meet them and not for him to set the bar lower.

With Bent being coached by her father as an eighth grader through her sophomore season at Barnstable (Mass.) High and Irwin's coach in both volleyball and basketball at State College (Pa.) High being her mother and Branford High School Hall of Famer Bethany (Collins) Irwin, they have a better idea of how coaches go about their business than most college freshmen.

"You can never really prepare too much for that," Bent said with a chuckle about Auriemma's rather blunt coaching style.."I know that everything he tells us is for our best interest so he wants to make us better players and a better team. What he says is right and what you are doing is wrong.

"He wants you to do well and it is up to me to make him trust me and have him trust me so much that he wants to put me in the game and is not just trying to get me minutes and stuff like that. When you
make a mistake and you can see the disappointment, you know you want to do better because you want to get in and want to make him proud and make your teammates trust you."

Those are lessons she learned at a young age from her father.

"It was just knowing that he had my best interest at heart," Bent said. "He was my dad off the court and my coach on the court. Being able to separate those two, I know anything they say on the court, it is not attacking your character, who you are; it is attacking how hard you are working, the decisions you are making and things like that."

Irwin said she couldn't remember the details leading to the first time Auriemma called her out in practice but said it likely had to be with something regarding her defense.

"It got real," Irwin said. "I had to turn something on inside, light a fire, get after it and prove to him that I can do it, I want to compete at this level. It lights a fire underneath you and I feel like that is his plan.

"I think (being coached by her mother) gave me a really solid background of knowledge, I know the game decently enough. I can see where he is coming from, I know he is not just yelling at me to yell at me. He is yelling at me to make me better and that is encouraging."

With fellow freshman Crystal Dangerfield unlikely to play tomorrow against Chattanooga, that could lead to more playing time for Bent and Irwin.

"I know when I get in I have to make the most of my minutes because it could change every game," Irwin said. "Just play as hard as I can, go after every ball, box out, do all the little things that will help my team win.

"You have to break old habits that aren't going to happen at this level, this high intensity level
and the coaches are here to remind you to do that. They are good at that, breaking those old bad
habits. It is best to listen to your coaches and do what they are asking you to do."

There are plenty of tickets available for tomorrow's game, the first of five games being played at the XL Center.

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