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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Bent looking to play more aggressively for UConn

When Molly Bent made her official visit to UConn, she had a chance to take part in the pickup games with the team that would win a fourth straight national title. Bent was loving life as she usually played on Breanna Stewart's team and would simply get the ball, throw the ball to Stewart and watch the national player of year score at will.

That pass-first philosophy worked perfectly in that situation but recently her coaches have been pushing Bent to be more assertive when she is on the court and that includes taking open shots.

Bent has seen her minutes jump recently especially since classmate Crystal Dangerfield has been sidelined with a stress reaction in her left foot. Yet, while Bent has averaged nearly 17 minutes in the last five games, she has taken four shots and missed each and every one of them. UConn's offense thrives on the ability to have a scoring threat at all five positions and that is something that came up in a recent heart to heart UConn coach Geno Auriemma had with her.

"I have never seen a kid work so hard and get nothing out it," Auriemma said after Saturday's practice. "She works every day in practice, she works hard in the game during the off times but it hasn't translated yet into any success. She is her own biggest enemy, she has to overcome what ever it is. I had a long talk with her the other day and I hope she gets it quickly because we need her especially right now with Crystal out, we really need another guard. I would love for her to get it. She doesn't need to get it completely but I need her to get a little bit of it, hopefully sooner rather than later."

In Saturday's practice Bent hit a layup following an aggressive drive to the basket and not long after that, she drove past a defender and into the lane. When nobody came over the contest her shot, she calmly knocked down a short jumper. Those are the types of plays Auriemma and the other coaches are hoping to see from her in games.

"I need to come in and not be just a fifth guy on the floor and not doing anything," Bent said. "I need to make plays for my teammates, plays to get myself open. I need to be a good teammate by being aggressive and doing things like that

"Just the adjustment of knowing there are so many great players around you, I was able to come in and say I don't need to do too much, I need to get other people involved so I had that so ingrained into my mind that it is almost an instinct now to pass. Coach (Auriemma) talked about how you need to get that out of your head, you need to be able to knock down shots because if you can do that, your teammates are going to be even more open."

Auriemma has never had any issues with Bent's work ethic. She is in the gym shooting as much as any player but seeing her not only not shooting but not even looking at the basket in practice or games has been driving him crazy. It is something that led to him encouraging Bent and Irwin to use this team to make more of a positive impact when they are on the court.

"He talked to me and Kyla (Irwin) and just changing our mentality offensively, not being afraid to do something," Bent said. "Everything is mind over matter, if you are telling yourself negative thoughts 'I don't want to mess up, I don't want to do this or that' well that is going to be much more detrimental than saying 'I need to be confident, I need to be aggressive.' I need to be having positive thoughts and then going out and doing it because we only have a little more time of our freshman year to go.

"I will watch game tape and I will see myself passively going through a screen and not attacking, not doing anything, It is not helping anyone, it is not helping me and not helping the team when I am out there

"He is so knowledgeable about things and when he talked to you about the things that he noticed, it is a wake-up call. You are not hiding anything, everybody is noticing that I am not being aggressive, I am not making plays and when somebody puts it out there and tells you to your face, it really helps you to make that change."

Bent has heard from her older teammates that the worst thing that could happen is to have Auriemma not asking for more out of her. She has been trying to take the things that he says with the knowledge it is because he has high hopes for her.

"The worst thing I could imagine is for him to stop yelling at me, to stop getting me to be the best player I can be because that means he is giving up on me," Bent said. "I definitely don't want that at all, especially my freshman year, that would be really bad. I am glad he is hard on me, I am glad that he had that talk with me and just knowing that it is hard but he knows I will be able to do it if I change my mentality and change the way I look at things."

UConn drew fewer than 6,600 fans in its last two games at Gampel Pavilion which would be an impressive number for another team in the American Athletic Conference but pales in comparison to what on-campus games have drawn in the past.

That will not be an issue tomorrow as the game is already approaching sellout status. Ironically, the last Gampel Pavilion women's game to be a sellout was the last one when Tulane was in town as 10,167 turned out for the final regular-season home game for All-Americans Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck.

Gabby Williams has been putting up some pretty impressive stats as post blog entries have highlighted. I did some checking and no UConn player has averaged at least 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot per game over the course of the season.

Well, Williams is currently averaging 12 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.9 steals and 1,.2 blocked shots per game. In case you were wondering, the only Division I women's player who can lay claim to the 10-5-5-2-1 club is Charlotte's Lefty Webster. I also did some scouring through box scores and Williams' streak of 11 games with more than one steal is tied with Bria Hartley for the third longest in program history in the last 20 seasons.

Rita Williams had a 17-game streak in the 1997-98 season while Moriah Jefferson did it in 13 straight games last season.


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