Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Even on historic run, UConn coaches and players are never satisfied

Coming off a 28-point win on the road against the team picked to finish second in the American Athletic Conference, this would have been a good time for the UConn coaches and players to take their foot off the pedal.

The players certainly seemed willing to oblige but Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma had other ideas during Friday's practice. Junior guard Kia Nurse, arguably the team's best defensive player, was being held out of most of the drills after she recently injured her ankle. Perhaps it was Auriemma's intention to work on 5 on 5 defensive drills at the end of the practice or maybe Nurse's absence was going to provide the perfect opportunity to test the team that has been rolling past all of its opponents.

Each time Azura' Stevens would drain a jumper, Batouly Camara would hit a layup or one of the male practice players would make a basket, Auriemma's blood pressure would begin to rise. Things got so bad in his eyes that he rather than let his players figure it out as he typically does, he simply ended practice. It is a move I have seen him do before but it is extremely rare.

His players certainly seemed to get the message.

"I think a lot of people on our team shut down a little bit," said Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn's leading scorer. "That is part of being a mature team, a lot of us just have to grow up and pick each other up when things aren't going well rather than letting people dwell on things."

Auriemma was almost gleeful in the post-game press conference after yesterday's win over Tulsa in expressing the kick he gets out of finding something about each of his players to critique even after a masterful performance.

"There is never an time when you pass up an opportunity to get a dig in at somebody about something," Auriemma said. "I don't care if it is a triple-double and it is the first one in the history of college basketball, we are going to find something to say about something. Why? Because it is fun, for the hell of it and it keeps them engaged otherwise I would not reason to talk to them and they wouldn't want to talk to me but now they have to talk to me because I am asking them why do you have nine (rebounds) instead of 10. You have some fun with that stuff but when it is all said and done, a lot of these kids push themselves. I don't know if it is like the old days when guys get on each other and has fun with each other. Now everybody loves everybody all the time, 'text me a picture of an emoji heart and tell me that you love me.'"

When freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield returned to the court in the win at Temple, the coaches were unhappy enough with her performance that she was not made available to the media following the game. It was a different story yesterday. Dangerfield wasn't requested for interviews but if she had there would have been hesitation in bringing her out.

Auriemma saw some positive signs in the energy that Dangerfield played with.

"She played really well," Auriemma said. "We were hoping to get her more minutes than she got in the Temple game, We thought 25 was a good number but we weren't really tied to that. We were going to play her for as long as we can play her and let's see how she is feeling. She made some great plays today and she was involved. She impacted the game. When you have that kind of ability and you are able to do a lot of things, I would expect you to do a lot of things on the court."


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